Punishment Of Rajam And The Qur’an

Question

Dear Mr. Ghamidi,

I am a regular listener of you and watch your programmes regularly. Although regarding your certain points and opinions I am completely opposed and I think they are in completely in contrast to the teachings of the Messenger of God and Holy Quran yet I must appreciate your positive points and I still I think that you are doing a fine job by explaining Islam to a common man in a logical way.

What today alarmed me was that once you said that the extreme punishment of "zina" or adultery in Islam is whipping (or 100 lashes) regardless of the fact that whether the culprits were married or not. Before your statement I was of the knowledge that only the "(munkirīn-e-ḥadīth)" or the deniers of the Ḥadīth hold this extreme view point. I was surprised to listen to your this viewpoint because my understanding is that you are not amongst them because you have sometimes quoted out of Ḥadīth. We all know that the punishment for the adultery is very explicitly mentioned in the most authentic books of ḥadīth that is to say the Muslim and Bukhārī. There are yet very clear incidents narrated in these books which speak of executions for the same very offence by "rajm" or stoning till death.

If you deny the validity of "rajm" it means that these punishments given by the Messenger of God were not justified as we know during the times of pagan Arabs no such punishment was ever given for adultery. Moreover, this punishment is also mentioned in the Old Testament and was sometimes practiced also under the Jewish Law. Mawlānā Mawdūdī has also dedicated a lengthy passage explaining the purpose of this punishment citing historical evidence in Tafhīm-al-Qur'ān. Ibn-i Kathīr and most of other Islamic scholars including the four schools of jurisprudence are of the unanimous opinion that the punishment for this offence is lashes in case of un-married and "rajm" for the married.

Your opinion in this case is incomprehensible in case you uphold the validity of Ḥadīth and Sunnah. However, I may have misread you that you once I say that you are not one amongst those who deny the authenticity of Ḥadīth, because if that is the case I would request to please clarify yourself so that I may be in a position to explain it to other people to whom I quote you extensively. It would be unfortunate for me if you are amongst the "munkirīn-i-ḥadīth" because I don't consider their opinion at all but here I have on numerous occasions quoted you.

Secondly, by the way if a woman will lead prayers in front of me, I will concentrate more on her body parts rather than the prayers or on God. Perhaps it was for sinful people like me who exist more in the society that women never lead a mixed congregation or prayers.

Shams Zaman


Answer

Assalaam o alaikum

Thanks for the heartening comments for Mr Ghamidi. We will certainly communicate your views to him. I understand you object to Mr Ghamidi's view on punishment of zina. This to you is negation of the Ḥadīth, an offence only expected from a Munkir-i Ḥadīth. Before we deal with this question we need to briefly explore the issue of the sources of religious knowledge in Islam. Mr Ghamidi holds that the Almighty has given us Islam through the last Messenger of God, Muhammad (sws) in two forms, the Holy Qur'ān and the Sunnah. The Holy Qur'ān is the word of God which He revealed to the Prophet (sws). The Prophet (sws) communicated it to the entire generation of the Companions (rta). They were responsible to transmit it to the next generation and this process went on till Islam has reached us. Since the human beings will be questioned about the last version of religion of Islam, brought by the Prophet Muhammad (sws), it has to be absolutely authentic. Therefore, the Almighty has made sure that the contents of the religion are kept secure from any interpolation. To ensure this the entire religion has been transmitted through generation to generation mode of transfer. The Holy Qur'ān which basically covers the beliefs and laws and the Sunnah which covers the religious practices are equally authentic and no one can doubt their authenticity. The Holy Prophet (sws) was responsible to propagate the contents of the religion to all and sundry among his followers. He made special efforts to preserve these sources under the divine guidance. That is why the Qur'ān was taught to all and the Sunnah was made part of the every day life of Muslims. As regards the matter of Ḥadīth that is only the explanatory source. It has been transmitted through isolated reports (akhbār-i aḥād) which are never considered absolutely authentic. The Prophet (sws) never arranged for their dissemination and it was left on the discretion of the people to transmit something they had heard the Prophet (sws) say or observed him do. Although the scholars of the science of Ḥadīth have tried their best to sift the truth from falsehood from the oral tradition the individual reports suffer from inherit problems which render them subject to analysis and critical study. They made sure that the narrators they accept the ḥadīth from were of sound memory and understanding, yet hey could never guarantee that memory of a certain individual did not fail. Through they tried from various sources to ascertain the trustworthiness of the narrators yet they could not remove human element from them. One cannot claim that a certain narrator was of absolutely infallible memory, perfect understanding, perfectly truthful and absolutely trustworthy. One can not guarantee that a certain individual heard something from the Prophet (sws) proper context and understood it as it was conceived by the Prophet (sws). We cannot make sure that he was able to transmit the saying or act in proper contextual background and did not fail to leave out all the necessary details. We also fail to make sure that all the narrators were able to communicate the original saying or act without any change in its meaning, context, references, related details and its basis in the basic religious sources. We cannot guarantee that the narrator did not change the saying because of his background, paradigm, and ability to comprehend and express what he understood without a slight alteration.

These are the inherent problems with the individual narratives because of which the scholars of the science of Hadith always considered the isolated reports as ẓannī source that is probable truth and not absolutely reliable thing. Khatib Baghdadi a celebrated scholar of the science of Ḥadīth writes:

An individual-to-individual report cannot be accepted if it offends common sense, the Holy Qur'ān, and the known Sunnah (recognized by the Muslim community) or practice, which is as current as Sunnah or is against an argument which is definitive. (Al Kifayah fi `Ilm ir Riwayah: 1:334)

This is why once a report is ascribed to the Holy Prophet (sws) through a reliable chain of reporters the expert turns to analyze the Matn (i.e. content of a Ḥadīth) of the tradition. Before establishing the tradition worthy of consideration it must be put through certain checks. As clear from Khatib's statement it has been determined that the tradition should not contradict:

a.The Qur'ān

b.The Sunnah

c.The Established Facts

Since the Holy Qur'ān holds a pivotal place among the sources of religious knowledge in Islam it should not be overruled. It has been transmitted through the most reliable mode of transmission; generation-to-generation channels of communication. It is absolutely reliable and has been regarded the criterion between the good and the evil, the true and the false. Anything contradicting it should never be considered in the least.

Similarly the Sunnah has also come down to us through the same source, therefore, it too cannot be abandoned if countered by individual-to-individual reports. Both of these sources contain the whole religion. All the individual reports can only explain these sources or provide the best example set by the Holy Prophet (sws). These cannot abrogate or contradict this basic corpus of the religion residing in the Qur'ān and the Sunnah.

Established knowledge and common sense also carries the same significance since it is endorsed by both reason and revelation. The Qur'ān always declares them to be the decisive source of knowledge. It tries to ascertain its veracity on the yardstick of the dictates of these established facts inherent in human nature. All the scholars including the Muḥaddithūn have always accepted this fact as clear from Khatib Baghdadi's statement given above.

Mr Ghamidi does not negate the importance of the Ḥadīth narratives. They are to him a very important explanatory source of understanding the Prophetic guidance regarding explanation of the Qur'ān, the Sunnah and are a very valid source of his life history. It provides us with details of the Prophet's exemplary behavior which the Muslims are required to follow. He only stresses the importance of the Qur'ān and the Sunnah. Anything which negates the Qur'ān cannot be accepted at any cost.

In case of rajam he does not state that the Prophet (sws) never stoned some criminals of adultery to death. He, however, differs with other scholars who believe that the ḥadīth has abrogated the Qur'ānic directive. The relevant Qur'ānic directive is clear and it does not specify the adultery and the adulteress in the verse with unmarried people. It is general and does not accept any such specification. The punishment of rajam according to Mr Ghamidi is based on another Qur'ānic directive regarding muḥārabah and fasād fī al-arḍ. This directive forms part of the Surah Nūr of the Qur'ān. The Almighty says:

The punishments of those who wage war against Allah and His Prophet and strive to spread disorder in the land are to execute them in an exemplary way or to crucify them or to amputate their hands and feet from opposite sides or to banish them from the land. Such is their disgrace in this world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom save those who repent before you overpower them; you should know that Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Ever Merciful. (5:33-34)

While explication this divine directive Mr Ghamidi says:

It is obvious from the style of these verses that the meaning implied by muḥārabah (waging war against Allah and His Prophet (sws)) and spreading disorder in the land is that a person or a group of persons takes the law in its hands and openly challenges the system of justice which in accordance with the Sharī'ah is established in a piece of land. Consequently, under an Islamic government, all those criminals who commit rape, or take to prostitution, or become notorious for their ill-ways and vulgarity, or become a threat to honorable people because of their immoral and dissolute practices, or openly disgrace women because of their wealth and social status, or rise against the government in rebellion, or create a law and order situation for the government by causing destruction, by becoming a source of terror and intimidation for people, by committing mass murder and plunder, decoity, robbery, by indulging in hijacking and terrorism and by committing other similar crimes are criminals of muḥārabah, and spreading such disorder in the society should be severely dealt with.

The following four punishments are specifically prescribed for such criminals in the verse quoted above:

(1) Taqtīl.

(2) Taṣlīb (crucifixion).

(3) Amputating limbs from opposite sides.

(4) Nafi (exile).

Mr Ghamidi explains the punishment of Taqtīl in the following words:

The words 'an yuqattalū' are used for it (taqtīl). They imply that not only should the criminals of this category be executed but that it should be done so in a manner that serves as a severe warning to everyone. The reason is that here the word taqtīl has been used instead of qatl. In Arabic, taqtīl means to execute someone in such a way that there is severity in the process of killing. Except for burning a criminal in fire and adopting other ways prohibited by the Sharī'ah, an Islamic government, keeping in view this aspect, can adopt various other ways as well. In the opinion of this writer, the punishment of rajam (stoning to death) is one form of taqtīl. The Prophet (sws) in his own times, in accordance with this directive, administered this punishment to certain criminals guilty of adultery." (Ghamidi, Burhān, Tr. Shehzad Saleem)

The Holy Prophet (sws) administered the punishment of rajam to some of the criminals who had committed adultery. Thus to Mr Ghamidi the punishment of rajam is an application of one of the directives of Islamic Sharī'ah. The only difference here is in question which of the Qur'ānic directive spells outs this punishment. The Muslim scholars have differed only on the question as to why did the Prophet (sws) administer this punishment when it was not a prescribed punishment for the crime of adultery? Many Muslim jurists studied the matter and concluded that the Holy Prophet (sws) abrogated the Qur'ānic directive in this regard. They believed that he differentiated between the married and the unmarried criminals in this regard and stoned the married ones to death and flogged the unmarried criminals with a hundred lashes. Mr Ghamidi's holds that it was an application of the Qur'ānic directive regarding the crime of muḥārabah. The Holy Qur'ān could not have been abrogated by the Prophet (sws). He stoned those people to death who had committed the crime not on any circumstantial provocation rather they were spreading open lewdness in the society or had put the honor of every citizens in danger. They committed the crime in an organized way and could rape any woman that came in their way. Such criminals were stoned to death under the Qur'ānic directive regarding the criminals of the crime of Muḥārabah.

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