In May, Farzana Parveen and her husband, Mohammad Iqbal walked toward the court in Lahore, Pakistan to contest a court case filed by her family against her husband. As she and her husband walked up to the court, they were met by nearly twenty of her family members including her father and brothers. The family fired shots into the air and tried to snatch her away from her husband, but when she resisted her father, brothers and other relatives began beating her. Eventually they used bricks from a nearby construction site to stone her to death.
Her father confessed to the murder, telling a police investigator, “I killed my daughter as she had insulted all of our family by marrying a man without our consent, and I have no regret over it.” Her father, two brothers, a cousin, and a man who claimed he had been married to Parveen were indicted on charges of murder and torture.
The public nature and the brutality of the stoning in front of the court was shocking even to Pakistanis, although honor killings are not rare in the nation. The Human Right Commission of Pakistan said that 869 women were murdered in honor killings in 2013.
There is not a present day Qur’anic verse that advocates stoning, however there are multiple passages in the hadith that advocate the practice especially as a punishment for committing adultery. “The Jew brought to the Prophet a man and a woman from amongst them who have committed (adultery) illegal sexual intercourse. He ordered both of them to be stoned (to death)” (Bukhari 2:23:413).
Stoning is a penalty that some modern nations practicing sharia law do enforce. It has been written into the penal code of Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. According to Amnesty International the Iranian penal code states that men should be buried up to their waists and women up to their breasts to execute them by stoning. The practice of burying someone up to their chest when stoning them is also found in the hadith. “We took him out, dug a pit for him and put him in it. We then threw stones at him until he died” (Abu Dawud 38:4421) and “The Prophet (peace be upon him) had a woman stoned and a pit was dug up to her breasts” Abu Dawud 38:4426).
The Iranian penal code also dictates that the stones used in a stoning should, “not be large enough to kill the person by one or two strikes – nor should they be so small that they could not be defined as stones.”
Stoning has been used as punishment under sharia law in predominantly Muslim nations including Iraq, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Pakistan. It has also been practiced in some states of Nigeria and in Aceh in Indonesia. The Sultan of Brunei’s recent decision to implement sharia law may also include stoning as a punishment unless protests against the implementation of the strict code are successful.
Prayer and international pressure does make a difference. For instance, in 2012, Layla Ibrahim Issa, a 23-year-old Sudanese woman was sentenced to death by stoning. After international pressure, the Court of Appeals in Khartoum dropped the stoning sentence and changed the charge against her from adultery to “egregious acts.” They also determined that she had already spent enough time in prison so she was released.
According to Amnesty International, women are more likely to be punished by stoning than men. Stoning is more predominant in nations where the majority of the population of women is illiterate, and therefore they are vulnerable to signing confessions of crimes they did not commit. Ask God to provide advocates for them who are literate and have the legal knowledge to advise women accused of crimes – so they do not confess to something out of fear or misunderstanding.
The manner of stoning today is a barbaric practice. Pray for a worldwide public outcry against this kind of punishment.
Families in honor-based societies are taught to believe that the only way their honor can be restored is by murder. Pray that God will change their hearts and that they can begin to understand that there is no such thing as honor in murder of the individual; rather there is honor in forgiveness.