Adultery Laws in Islam and Stoning in the Modern World

  • Souha Korbatieh Charles Sturt University
Keywords: adultery, capital punishment, Muslim states, sharia, stoning


This article looks at the legal basis within Islamic scholarship for imposing stoning for the crime of adultery. Traditionally it has been accepted that, based on Qur'an, hadith and examples from the Rightly Guided Caliphs, stoning is the Islamic punishment for married adulterers. However, upon closer inspection it appears these sources may not be as solid as once believed. While the jumhoor (majority) opinion for stoning remains, there are notable scholars, traditional and modern, who discount, question and even reject these arguments. Despite the jumhoor, the severity of the punishment is greatly tempered by the high evidentiary standards that act as its safeguard. These safeguards are briefly discussed.

The second part of this article looks at stoning in the modern world, which has occurred as a by-product of the rising phenomenon of sharia application in modern Muslim countries. The challenge for these countries is how to apply sharia punishments such as stoning, while maintaining sharia’s aims of equality, social justice and morality.

Solutions for existing and emerging Muslim states regarding the application of punishments are made and practical suggestions for a way forward. This article essentially argues Muslim scholars and jurists must reassess the legitimacy of imposing sharia punishments such as stoning and reach meaningful conclusions about the future of capital punishment in the Muslim world.