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Stoning, or lapidation, refers to a form of capital punishment whereby an organized group throws stones at the convicted individual until the person dies.

Stoning has been used throughout history in a number of places, both in the form of community justice and also as a judicial form of capital punishment. The practice is referred to in Greek history and Islamic shariah, as well as Christian and Jewish texts of antiquity.


Stoning within present day Islam

Islamic scholars argue both for and against stoning within Islam. Currently, six out of fifty-two Muslim-majority countries in the world use stoning as a legally-sanctioned form of punishment: Afghanistan, Iran, Nigeria (about one-third among 36 states), Pakistan, Sudan, Saudi Arabia[1], and the United Arab Emirates. Two Muslim-majority countries, Iraq and Pakistan have reported incidents of stonings outside of the boundaries of law.[2] The original laws for stoning in Judaism dictated that two reputable people must have witnessed the offence (and must witness the stoning). In Islam stoning (which is the penalty for committing adultery out of wedlock only)Template:Fact is the only capital punishment which requires four reputable eye-witness "accusers" to state that they saw the defendants sexually interact. Stoning in Judaism and many other cultures has long been abolished, whilst in strict Sharia-governed countries, it is still widely practised.

It is also important to note that in Islam a person who confesses to adultery can be his own witness, yet according to sharia law he must oath on himself four timesTemplate:Fact before he can be punished with the appropriate punishment, which is stoning if the person is married or 100 lashes if the person is not married. However, the correct thing to do according to Shari'a is not to tell anybody about it and repent to Allah instead.Template:Fact

Husbands can also launch a charge against their spouses, and have (in support) no evidence but their own,- their solitary evidence (can be received) if they bear witness four times (with an oath) by Allah that they are solemnly telling the truth; And the fifth (oath) (should be) that they solemnly invoke the curse of Allah on themselves if they tell a lie; But it would avert the punishment from the wife, if she bears witness four times (with an oath) By Allah, that (her husband) is telling a lie; And the fifth (oath) should be that she solemnly invokes the wrath of Allah on herself if (her accuser) is telling the truth; [3].

Usage today

Among the world's countries with Muslim majorities, very few (the unofficial shari`a court which runs in parallel with judicial court) exercise this form of punishment; when they do, they often face criticism.Template:Fact


Islamic law in Pakistan still allows stoning as a form of punishment, and it is used as a punishment for adultery.[4]


As most areas of Afghanistan, aside from the capital, Kabul, are controlled locally by warlords or tribal leaders, the Afghan legal system depends highly on an individual community's local culture and the political and/or religious ideology of its leaders. Stoning also occurs in lawless areas, where vigilantes decide to commit the act for religious and/or political purposes.[5]


In Iran, stoning as a punishment did not exist until 1983, when the contemporary Islamic Penal Code was ratified.

In 2002 Iran's judiciary indicated that stoning will no longer be practiced in Iran.[6] However, it continued.

In 2008, Iran's judiciary once again said it planned to stop stoning as a form of punishment; however, it would still be a legal form of punishment.[7][8]

In August 2008 the Global Campaign to Stop Killing and Stoning Women announced that there were still at least eight women and one man sentenced to die by stoning for convictions of prostitution, incest and adultery.[8] Two were granted amnesty, two received reduced sentences of imprisonment and/or lashes and five cases are under review.[8]

The spokesman for the Iranian judiciary, Alireza Jamshidi, said in a statement, "Don’t forget. One cannot remove the punishment of stoning from the law."[8] The case of Kobra Najjar, a 44 year old woman who was convicted of adultery, but who some say was forced into prostitution by her husband, has received international attention.[9] Her sentence was commuted to 100 lashes early in 2009.[10]

Amnesty International reported the following stonings since 2002:[11]

  • A man Abbas and a woman Mahbouibeh, May 2006 in Mashad.
  • A man Ja'far Kiani, July 2007, in Aghche-kand.
  • A man Houshang Khodadadeh and another unidentified man, December 2008, in Mashad. A third man escaped from the pit and is in custody.
  • A man Vali Azad, March 2009, in Rasht.

Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates

Sentences to stoning or stonings without a sentence were also reported within the last years from Sudan, Saudi-Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.[12]


In October, 2008, a girl, Aisho Ibrahim Dhuhulow was buried up to her neck at a football stadium, then stoned to death in front of more than 1,000 people. The stoning occurred after she had allegedly pleaded guilty to adultery in a shari`ah court in Kismayo, a city controlled by Islamist insurgents. According to the insurgents she had stated that she wanted shari`ah law to apply.[13]

However, other sources state that the victim had been crying, that she begged for mercy and had to be forced into the hole before being buried up to her neck in the ground.[14] Amnesty International later learned that the girl was in fact 13 years old and had been arrested by al-Shabab militia after she had reported being gang-raped by three men.[15]


Stoning is available as a punishment under Sharia in Nigeria. The most famous case was that of Amina Lawal, who was sentenced to death for having sex out-of-wedlock, as she was not married and found herself pregnant.[16] She was later acquitted on appeal and released.

The death sentences through stoning of the years 2000 and 2001 in Northern Nigeria sparked international discussion on Shari`a’s imposition of stoning. Between 2000 and 2001 twelve northern Nigerian states officially declared Shari`a to be their criminal code again, even though many of its regulations conflict with the Nigerian constitution. The introduction of Shari`a law directly and indirectly led to many violent riots.[12]

Groups against the practice of stoning

Stoning has been condemned by several human rights organizations. Some groups, such as Amnesty International[17] and Human Rights Watch, oppose all capital punishment, including stoning. Other groups, such as and RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan), oppose stoning per se as an especially "cruel" practice.

Specific sentences of stoning, such as the Amina Lawal case, have often generated international protest. Groups like Human Rights Watch,[18] while in sympathy with these protests, have raised a concern that the Western focus on stoning as an especially "exotic" or "barbaric" act distracts from what they view as the larger problems of capital punishment. They argue that the "more fundamental human rights issue in Nigeria is the dysfunctional justice system."

In Iran, the Stop Stoning Forever Campaign was formed by various women’s rights activists after a man and a woman were stoned to death in Mashhad Iran in May 2006. Their main goal is to legally abolish stoning as a form of punishment for adultery in Iran.[6]

Stoning in historical Christianity and Judaism

Bible and Judaic references


The Torah of the Jews, which is contained in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible and as such serves as a common religious reference, prescribes death by stoning for a long series of offenses, namely:

  • Touching Mount Sinai while God was giving Moses the Ten Commandments (Exodus 19:13)
  • An ox that gores someone to death should be stoned (Exodus 21:28)
  • Breaking the Shabbat (Numbers 15:32-36)
  • Giving one's "seed" (presumably one's offspring) "to Molech" (Leviticus 20:2-5)
  • Having a "familiar spirit" (or being a necromancer) or being a "wizard" (Lev. 20:27)
  • Cursing God (Lev. 24:10-16)
  • Engaging in idolatry (Deuteronomy 17:2-7) or seducing others to do so (Deut. 13:7-12)
  • "Rebellion" against parents (Deut. 21,21)
  • Getting married as though a virgin, when not a virgin (Deut. 22:13-21)
  • Sexual intercourse between a man and a woman engaged to another man (both should be stoned, Deut. 22:23-24)


The Mishna gives the following list of persons who should be stoned (Sanhedrin Chapter 7, p. 53a [2])

  • A man who has sexual intercourse with one of the following (see Lev. 20, which however does not specify the form of execution):
his mother
his father's wife
his daughter-in-law
another man
an animal ("bestiality")
  • A woman who allows an animal to have sexual intercourse with her
  • A blasphemer
  • An idolater
  • One who gives his seed to Molech
  • A necromancer or wizard
  • One who desecrates the sabbath
  • One who curses his father and mother
  • One who has sexual intercourse with a betrothed maiden
  • One who incites or instigates (toward idolatry)
  • A sorcerer
  • A wayward and rebellious son

In practice

There are only scarce mentions of such a punishment being actually legally inflicted. There are three cases in the Bible (see list below) in which a person was stoned to death as a punishment. But there are also five or six cases where someone was stoned by a mob, or not in a legal fashion. A detailed recorded case of stoning occurs in the Book of Joshua (7, 24) when a man named Achan (עכן) was found to have kept loot from Jericho, a conquered Canaanite city, in his tent.

As manifest also in Jewish sources contemporary with and prior to early Christianity, particularly the Mishnah, doubts were growing in Jewish society about the morality of capital punishment in general and stoning in particular. For example, according to Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel in the time when the religious courts had authority over capital punishment, a court that executed more than 1 person in 70 years was a "bloody court".[19]

In the following centuries the leading Jewish sages imposed so many restrictions on the actual implementation of capital punishment - especially, many difficult to fulfill conditions for a testimony to be admissible (Sanhedrin) - as to make the imposition of capital punishment virtually impossible in practice.

The Talmud limits the use of the death penalty to Jewish criminals who: (a) while about to do the crime were warned not to commit the crime while in the presence of two witnesses (and only individuals who meet a strict list of standards are considered acceptable witnesses); and (b) having been warned, committed the crime in front of the same two witnesses.Template:Fact

The Talmudic method of how stoning is to be carried out differs from mob stoning such as implied by the story of Jesus and the woman taken in adultery in the Gospel of John. According to the Jewish Oral Law, after the Jewish criminal has been determined as guilty before the Great Sanhedrin, the two valid witnesses and the sentenced criminal go to the edge of a high place. From there the two witnesses are to push the criminal off. After the criminal has fallen, the two witnesses are to drop a large boulder onto the criminal - requiring both of the witnesses to lift the boulder together. If the criminal did not die from the fall or from the crushing of the large boulder, then any people in the surrounding area are to quickly cause him to die by stoning with whatever rocks they can find.

Josephus reports that the Sanhedrin, under the instigation of Hanan ben Hanan, put James the Just to death by stoning.

People who were stoned

[[File:|thumb|200px|right|The lapidation of Saint Stephen]]

People who were almost stoned

Stoning in literature

Stoning in film and television

  • Seven Sleepers (English translation), 2005 - A series running on Iranian TV, in which medieval (300-400 AD) Jews stone Christians.[20]
  • A Stoning in Fulham County, 1988 - A made-for-TV movie surrounding the vigilante stoning in an American Amish community.[21]
  • Monty Python's Life of Brian presents a Jesus of Nazareth-era stoning in a humorous context, ending with a massive boulder being dropped on the Jewish official (John Cleese), not the victim. The film mentions that women are not allowed at stonings, yet almost all of the stone-throwers turn out to be women disguised as men.
  • Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" made into a short (20 minute) film by Larry Yust [3] in 1969 as part of an educational release for Encyclopaedia Britannica's "Short Story Showcase".
  • The film The Kite Runner depicts the stoning of an adulteress in a public stadium during a football match, by the Taliban.
  • The film Mission Istanbul depicts the stoning of an adulteress in Kabul, by the fictional terrorist group Abu Nazir until it is interrupted by the protagonist Vikas Sagar. After Vikas leaves, the adulteress is shot dead.
  • The Stoning of Soraya M. 2009
  • Year One

See also



  2. The Global Campaign to Stop Killing and Stoning Women. FAQ page
  3. Verse 24.006 - 24.009
  4. [1]
  5. Afghan Police Probe Woman Stoning Over Adultery
  6. 6.0 6.1
  7. [Iran to scrap death by stoning. See]
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Iran: Death by stoning suspended…but still legal!, Press Release of the Global Campaign to Stop Killing and Stoning Women, August 7, 2008; accessed September 21, 2008.
  9. Save Kobra Najjar, Lynn Harris,, July 10, 2008; accessed September 21, 2008.
  11. Amnesty reports on stoning in Iran
  12. 12.0 12.1 Abolish Stoning and Barbaric Punishment Worldwide!
  13. "Somali woman executed by stoning". BBC News. 2008-10-27. Retrieved on 2008-10-31. 
  15. "Somalia: Girl stoned was a child of 13". Amnesty International. 2008-10-31. Retrieved on 2008-10-31. 
  16. Nigeria stoning appeal adjourned, March 25, 2007
  17. "Amina Lawal: Sentenced to death for adultery". Amnesty International. 2003. 
  18. "Nigeria: Debunking Misconceptions on Stoning Case". Human Rights Watch. 2003. 
  19. makkot 1:10 March 11 2008
  20. "Iran TV: 'Evil' Jews stoning Christians". January 5, 2005. 
  21. "A Stoning in Fulham County". release date 1988. 

External links



Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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stoning (plural stonings)

  1. Lapidation: punishment by throwing stones, usually resulting in death
    • 2009 January 14, Nazila Fathi, “Iran Says U.S. Helped Finance Overthrow Plot”, New York Times:
      The stonings came as something of a surprise, in that Iranian officials had said they had suspended that method of execution.




  1. Present participle of stone.


  • Hebrew: סקילה (he) (s'kilah) f.


Citable sentences

Up to date as of December 17, 2010

Here are sentences from other pages on Stoning, which are similar to those in the above article.

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