Islam and stoning: A historical perspective

Many critics of Islam allege that Islam is barbaric because it legislates the capital punishment for offenses like rape, apostasy, heresy, blasphemy etc. etc. This is not a new allegation on Islam, many critics have been using the same rhetoric for a long time now. This perception of Islam (that it condones stoning to death) is built on the historic events that occurred during the life of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him), where he suggested stoning of people.

If you study the Holy Quran, you will be astonished to know that there is no mentioning of this punishment in the entire scripture. There is punishment but death (no matter in what shape or form) is not even remotely mentioned for this offense. In the hadith (sayings / biography of the Prophet (Peace be upon Him)) we find certain accounts for when the Prophet (Peace be upon Him) ordained the stoning of death for adulterers. These rare events should be viewed in the historical perspective of that time. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) had migrated from Mecca towards Yathrib (which was later to be known as Medina), He was made head of state by an agreement between the dwellers of Medina and the surrounding (Jewish) tribes. It is important to remember that the Prophet’s (Peace be upon Him) reputation as a shroud and honest judge had perpetrated throughout entire Arabian peninsula. Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) served as an arbitrator towards the community and people of all cast, creed and religion brought their feuds and conflicts to him and returned satisfied.

Verily, Allah commands you to make over the trusts to those entitled to them, and that, when you judge between men, you judge with justice. And surely excellent is that with which Allah admonishes you! Allah is All-Hearing, All-Seeing. (Chapter 4, Verse 59)

Having established his reputation as an unprejudiced, wise and honest judge, the people of Medina (and those of the surrounding Jewish tribes) brought their conflicts to Him in pursuit of justice. When the cases of murders, adultery and harassment, the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) inquired from the people what was the punishment ordained amongst them for these offenses. And the same punishment (according to the religion of the parties) was ordained for the accused. In simple words, the ‘stoning to death’ did not originate in Islam. Let us briefly explore the origins of this punishment.

Stoning to death: History

While the origins of stoning may be unknown outside the Abrahamic religions, what is known that Aztecs used to stone the adulterers to death. The first account of stoning to death in Abrahamic religions come from Torah, which is a part of the Old testament.

12 Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death.

13 They are to be stoned or shot with arrows; not a hand is to be laid on them. No person or animal shall be permitted to live.’ Only when the ram’s horn sounds a long blast may they approach the mountain.”

(Exodus 19)

Here the bible is commanding the followers to kill those who touch the Holy Mountain without touching them. In Numbers we find texts which ordain the similar punishment but for another crime.

32 While the Israelites were in the wilderness, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day.

33 Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly,

34 and they kept him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him.

35 Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp.”

36 So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the Lord commanded Moses.

These are two of many examples where the bible commands for spiritual crimes be met with physical (and absolute) punishment. Even sleeping or lying with an engaged woman (who is engaged to another man and not violating the woman or abusing her) is punishable by stoning. Other crimes include: blasphemy, witchcraft, adultery, Overtime however the Jewish priests enacted some doctrines in order to prevent innocent from receiving capital punishment.

The Islamic link

As stated earlier, there is no account of stoning to death mentioned in the Quran. However, we find certain judgements during the time of Prophet (peace be upon him) that certain people were killed by stoning to death. Why? well the following Hadith sheds some light on the issue:

The Jews brought to the Prophet a man and a woman from among them who had committed illegal sexual intercourse. The Prophet said to them, “How do you usually punish the one amongst you who has committed illegal sexual intercourse?” They replied, “We blacken their faces with coal and beat them.” He said, “Don’t you find the order of Ar-Rajm (i.e. stoning to death) in the Torah?” They replied, “We do not find anything in it.” ‘Abdullah bin Salam (after hearing this conversation) said to them, “You have told a lie! Bring here the Torah and recite it if you are truthful.” (So the Jews brought the Torah). And the religious teacher who was teaching it to them, put his hand over the Verse of Ar-Rajm and started reading what was written above and below the place hidden with his hand, but he did not read the Verse of Ar-Rajm. ‘Abdullah bin Salam removed his (i.e. the teacher’s) hand from the Verse of Ar-Rajm and said, “What is this?” So when the Jews saw that Verse, they said, “This is the Verse of Ar-Rajm.” So the Prophet ordered the two adulterers to be stoned to death, and they were stoned to death near the place where biers used to be placed near the Mosque. I saw her companion (i.e. the adulterer) bowing over her so as to protect her from the stones. (Sahih Bukhari 6.79, Narrated by Abdullah ibn Umar)

As you can see from the above account, the Prophet (peace be upon him) judged between the two parties on the basis of Torah (their religious scriptures). It was never sanctioned into Islam as far as history goes. This tradition spread through the Muslims, some of them spread the news without proper context, which was that the punishment was legislated within Torah and not Quran. Therefore after the death of Prophet (peace be upon Him) this false tradition was taken up by Muslims.

The punishment for adultery in Islam is for the perpetrator to be lashed out (which can be changed based on the culture), not put to death. This is evident from the following Hadith:

Narrated Abu Huraira and Zaid bin Khalid Al-Juhani: A bedouin came to Allah’s Apostle and said, “O Allah’s apostle! I ask you by Allah to judge My case according to Allah’s Laws.” His opponent, who was more learned than he, said, “Yes, judge between us according to Allah’s Laws, and allow me to speak.” Allah’s Apostle said, “Speak.” He (i .e. the bedouin or the other man) said, “My son was working as a laborer for this (man) and he committed illegal sexual intercourse with his wife. The people told me that it was obligatory that my son should be stoned to death, so in lieu of that I ransomed my son by paying one hundred sheep and a slave girl. Then I asked the religious scholars about it, and they informed me that my son must be lashed one hundred lashes, and be exiled for one year, and the wife of this (man) must be stoned to death.” Allah’s Apostle said, “By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, I will judge between you according to Allah’s Laws. The slave-girl and the sheep are to be returned to you, your son is to receive a hundred lashes and be exiled for one year. You, Unais, go to the wife of this (man) and if she confesses her guilt, stone her to death.” Unais went to that woman next morning and she confessed. Allah’s Apostle ordered that she be stoned to death.The stoning was done to the woman because she was a jew and according to torah punishment is stoning.The son got 100 lashes because its the punishment for zina in quran.

(Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 50: Conditions, Number 885)

So it is safe to say that it is not Islamic law which dictates barbaric punishment, the fact is that these have nothing to do with Islam at all. Therefore all those out Islamophobes out there, when you talk about stoning, be prepared to criticize the Jews and the Christians for this cruelty not Islam. If you are curious to learn the status of capital punishments in Islam, please follow the link here.

Save Burma, let Pakistan burn

Social networks are crowded with pictures, pleas and appeals for the Burmese Muslims caught in the midst of a terrible conflict with the Buddhist majority in Burma. The tales and pictures (most of which are fake though) being used on social media are gut-wrenching and horrifying. Amnesty international has accused the security forces and ethnic majority of Rakhine Buddhists for the violence being perpetrated in the north. It should be well-known that this conflict is purely ethnic and has nothing at all to do with religion. Loss of life (in any way or form) is condemnable and all measures should be taken, to bring these horrific crimes against humanity to an end.

As with everything remotely related to Muslim persecution, my Pakistani (Muslim) friends are at the forefront of the campaign to ensure that the news reaches everyone. They consider this their ‘religious duty’ to make sure every Muslims is actively participating in spreading the news of such violence. Words being used to describe the acts of the Rakhine Buddhists are “shameful”, “heinous”, “criminal”, “in-humane” etc. Just yesterday I noticed a poster where it was claimed that Muslims aren’t allowed to say “Azaan” and that this was “cruel in-justice”. I cannot say it is true but it did sadden me, to think that an individual is being deprived of his most basic religious activity.

But then, it hit me, Burma’s situation is not that different from Pakistan. The majority Muslims in this country impose on (whatever) minority (is left) in this country. Christians, Hindus and other minority religions are being persecuted all the time. Even minority Muslim sects like the Shia sect is not safe from this persecution. They are killed upon identification, Christians and Hindus are forced to give up their religious belief and convert. Those who do and revert back are killed again. Ahmadis are barred from praying, their places of worship (which cannot be dubbed as mosques according to the constitution) are being demolished. They, and other minorities, even some Muslim sects are dubbed ‘wajib-ul-qatl’ (obligated to be killed) and yet the same Pakistani Muslims feel sorry when they find Muslims in the same situation?
hypocritical isn’t it?

In no way I am justifying the crimes against humanity in Burma. They have the rights of religious liberty and freedom of living and speech. But since when does a Pakistani Muslim care about it? Burma is not a Muslim state, if Pakistanis can legislate killing of people who believe in the freedom of speech, why are they outraged if another country uses something similar to it for Muslims? They celebrate when Mumtaz Qadri kills someone who have a different opinion on some issue, but they protest if the same thing happens in Burma. I hope they understand how it feels to be at the receiving end of this persecution which is deemed ‘HOLY’ by many. It isn’t that holy when it is brought upon them (or people from their clan).

The point of writing this is not to condemn the protests against these crimes being committed in Burma (they are to be condemned strongly), but to make my fellow Muslims understand that they are no different from these Burmese military men or the Buddhist majority, imposing their will on the helpless and exposed minority. I hope this might help them understand.

Religion and Homosexuality

Homosexuals around the world face bias and discrimination from the mainstream, they are labelled outcasts and sinners. However, it is not a place of a human being to dub anyone as a ‘sinner’ or an ‘infidel’ just on the basis of his/her orientation and choices. Everyone is entitled to their own choice and way of living. Having said that, this post I am about to make is going to address the very basic question (or may I say allegation) that rises from the ranks of those who claim to be homosexuals. I am not a religious scholar, nor I am a psychiatrist but I would like to take on this claim and try to explain my point of view on this sensitive issue. I would like to emphasize that I am not judging anyone on the basis of their lifestyle and that this post must be read only as an argument towards a claim, I would appreciate if anyone can counter this.

The claim is that homosexuality is not a choice, rather God intended to create (the homosexuals) that way. I for once completely disagree with this statement, it is not because I am straight, it is not because I am religious, but because the claim does not make any sense. Let me explain.

I would like to believe there are many religious individuals among the ranks of homosexuals, I therefore understand these individuals with religious values must believe in God (of whatever religion). Here, I will be using references from the Abrahamic religions (mainly Islam). The mainstream (who hold religious values) use the stories of Sodom and Gomorrah to scare off the homosexuals, for those who are unaware, Sodom and Gomorrah (mainly referred to as the people of Lot) were two towns where people practiced homosexuality openly. However, these people met a tragic end since they failed to repent despite the constant warning of Prophet Lot. The incident has been reported both in the Holy Qura’an and Bible with very harsh wordings (used for the town dwellers).

In the Holy Qura’an, God reiterates the purpose for creating human kind (while mentioning this incident), so that they will multiply and we need no rocket science to conclude that same-sex relationships cannot reproduce. Therefore, the claim that homosexuality is not a choice is baseless. Those who think my conclusion is far-fetched, should consider the fact that the same claim can be made by a pedophile, or certain others who claim to be attracted towards animals.

God is perfect and He has created the perfect beings and these beings are capable of thinking and making choices of their own, adapting to lifestyles and choosing their own paths of life. God has laid down a set of rules (in the form of holy scriptures), in order to guide his creation, educate them on what’s right and wrong and it is up to the human kind, whether or not to take this guidance.

Now that we have established the fact that God in no possible way intends to create homosexuals, the question is why do people choose to be in homosexual relationships. Again, I do not claim to be a psychiatrist but the answer to this question lie in the past of the individual in question. It is conceivable that the individual have had a traumatic experience in which the villain is someone who is a close relative and of the opposite sex. Another possibility is the lack of trust in the opposite gender due to rumors or sexist statements, for example many men claim that women are dumb and the women claim the same about women. It is possible that people who turn to their own gender for comfort may take these statements as facts and develop a certain hatred or fear of being with the opposite sex (in a long-term relationship).

There may be many cases which may lead to an individual to ‘come out of the closet’, one thing is clear, that God is perfect and so is everything that He has created. We humans though, we are misguided, we make mistakes but it is not because God intends us to, but because we do not understand God’s intention.

Religion and hatred Part – 2

Previous

The three Abrahamic religions are at war with each other for ‘world domination’ due to this in bred hatred. The clergy craves a bigger congregation, wider audience and more control, be it Judaism, Christianity or Islam. To achieve their goals, the clergy starts breeding this hatred into their subjects at an early stage.  Christians are told how someone who doesn’t holds the hand of Christ is bound for hell while Muslims tell their young ones, anyone who doesn’t pray like they do will be a hell dweller.

I do not know if they (the clerics) are playing God, sending people through to heaven and hell at their will. It is God who will decide on the day of judgement. Not some funny dressed cleric! Who has given them the right to dub anyone as an infidel? Every cleric has his own criteria of infidelity, which is just insanity. It is the most easiest way to ignite one’s rage towards another one, by dubbing them as infidels but, are they out of this world? Or aliens to earth? They are the same flesh and bones everyone is just because they differ in opinion doesn’t mean we go on a killing spree.

The most worrying phenomenon of this hatred breeding is using it at a later stage. Today, we see Islamic militants, Christian extremists, Jewish radicals spewing hatred constantly for each other. The clergy is the center of this manipulation, they use those seeds of hatred put in at a younger stage, to their own advantage. Their subjects work as a remote-controlled Robot (with flesh and bones) for these clerics. The subject is overwhelmed with so much passion, the pain of death, humiliation or retaliation seems very tiny to them.

Fellow readers, hate is good for nothing. None of the religions were based upon hatred for someone else. The founders of the three Abrahamic religions proved to us that love and friendship is what is required to spread the message of God. The sword might win the battle on ground, but it is love and friendship which will give you control over hearts and minds.

Religion and hatred Part – 1

Hatred, is a very strong sentiment. It is what fuels one’s anger and outrage. Though it can be controlled and neutralized but, when coupled with religion, it is pretty much uncontrollable. Almost every religion preaches hatred towards every other religion of the world. This hatred is what fueled the forces of the Pharaoh against Moses (P.B.U.H.), the people who crucified Jesus Christ (P.B.U.H.), the Jews and pagan worshipers of Arabia against Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H.), the  crusades, world wars, the murder of minorities in many countries, exiles and many other wars which are not know to the world.

Though I can confidently say that none of these religions, in their pure form, preached hatred towards any other fellow being. I will speak for myself, I didn’t observe it in the ten commandments, Jesus (P.B.U.H.) never preached it and Muhammad (P.B.U.H.) never propagated it. The lives of these Holy beings is filled with events where they showed compassion, love and mercy towards their fellow beings. In present times however, we observe the clergy doing exactly the opposite.

The only conclusion I come to for this inclusion (of hatred) is that, for ages, religion has been dominant in every civilization. Be it, Aztecs, Incas, Romans, Greeks, Egyptians and Sumerians. It was their religions that brought these civilizations together to become the greatest powers in the world at that time, at the center of which were their respective clerics, but these religions also brought about the demise of these civilizations. Today, many Christians are taught to hate Jews and Muslims, Jews are taught to hate Christians and Muslims are taught to hate everyone who is not Muslim. I understand if this doesn’t sound weird to the reader but trust me it is. This hatred is included just for the purpose of domination over other religions.

Part 2Next

Is Pakistan the only one?

There is a lot of anger and rage in Muslim countries after the ridiculous Qura’an burning incident took place in Florida. The actions of that (so-called) pastor are shameful and extreme. His stupidity could have had put Christian lives in Muslim countries in jeopardy. His claim that Muslims are extremists, doesn’t hold any authority when he himself goes to such extreme measures.

On the other hand, his actions have brought Pakistani people out on the street (once again). I understand they are enraged (both Pakistani Christians and Muslims), why is it that only Pakistanis are showing so much ignorance and undisciplined? It is alright if you want to protest, but protest with unity! I have been reading news regarding these protests and everyone has their own agenda and name to the protest. Why is it that these (wayward and outrageous) protests are only happening in Pakistan? Is Saudi Arabia not Muslim? Are not Iran, Malaysia, Indonesia or United Arab Emirates not Muslim countries?

I fail to understand the fact that they all come out when Raymond Davis kills someone or he is released according to the ‘Shariah law’ or when the Qura’an is burnt or there are cartoons published in the West, but none of these individual take to the streets when Al-Qaeda or Taliban carry out their inhumane acts. They don’t protest when Taliban bomb mosques, kill women and children. Why? What message these people out on the streets trying to convey?

They have stopped businesses, transport is cut off, trade is halted just for their protest which frankly speaking means nothing to the West. All the other Muslim states (except for the majority in Middles East because they have their own issues) are going about minding their own business, while Pakistanis are out on the streets ‘trying’ to show their passion for Islam. It makes me wonder whether those countries where people didn’t come out on the streets are Islamic or Pakistan is the only one?

Holy Ghost and creation

PreviousThe role of the Holy Ghost

 

We do not observe any role played by the Holy Ghost in the divine plan of creation and also for that matter of Jesus Christ.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

Obviously it is God the Father who is referred to in the Old Testament without any hint of a reference to Christ or the Holy Ghost. In the entire pre-Christian era, among all the Jews who believed in the Old Testament and must have heard this verse hundreds of thousands of times, there was not one who could read the name of Christ in the creation of the Universe or that of the Holy Ghost. In his Gospel, St. John suggests ‘Word’ to stand for Jesus. It is strange that such an important subject has been taken up by author of only one Gospel; by someone who was not even a disciple of Jesus.1 Even if one accepts his word to be the word of God, still it can only be understood to mean the Will of God; a concept that is common to many religions with reference to Creation.

Surprisingly, the age-long secret of Christ’s and the Holy Ghost’s participation in the Creation, remained a secret to Jesus himself. We read not a single statement of Jesus Christ where he claims to be the Word. Therefore, neither had any part to play in the shaping and making of Creation. Again it was God the Father alone, we are told, who fashioned man from dust with his own hands. I have never read anywhere in any Christian writings that the two hands belonged to Jesus and the Holy Ghost. Hence God created everything without the slightest help from, or participation of, Jesus or the Holy Ghost. Were they passive observers generally in agreement with what God was doing or did they actually participate? If the latter is more acceptable to Christian theologists then immediately the question arises whether each of them was individually capable of creating, without the help of the others, or were they only capable in their totality. And again, if all three were essentially needed to pool their functions together to create, then was their share equal, or did one have a larger share of the labour put into the process of creation? Were they three persons with different powers both in intensity and kind or did they share them equally? One has to admit that whichever of the two options is taken, each of the components of Trinity becomes incompetent to create anything in itself.

If the same argument is extended to other Divine functions, the same question will continue to plague the Christian theologists. At the end of the day Christianity will have to admit that it does not believe in one simple entity of God, with three aspects and expressions of one single central power and majesty. But rather that they believe in three complementary components of Godhead that are three segments of the body of God. The question of being equal or unequal would then be assigned a relatively minor status.

Take, for instance, the attribute of Justice and Forgiveness. The Son appears to be more compassionate whereas God the Father appears to be less Just than the Holy Ghost, who took no part in the injustice on the part of God the Father.

The second possibility we mentioned was that Jesus and the Holy Ghost played an inert role in the processes of creation and the government of the laws of nature. That being so, it raises many other questions. First of all what is the assigned role of the two partners of God in the discharging of their Divine functions? If they are passive silent observers, like sleeping partners, then they are automatically relegated to a secondary, inferior position where they coexist with God but without, in practicality, sharing His powers. This concept of God having two non-functional appendices is very bizarre to say the least. I wonder whose conscience it can satisfy. Rationally it is, of course, unacceptable and does not harmonize with the Christian concept of ‘Three in One’ and ‘One in Three’. The oneness in three cannot be reached or even remotely conceived without there being a total merger of will, of powers and of whatever experience of life that can be attributed to a single living entity.

In the case of Holy Ghost, being a separate person, unless that person merges completely and irrevocably, losing all its identity in the other two, there remains no future hope of the emergence of a hydra headed-god with single thoughts, single will and a single body.

%d bloggers like this: