Written by: Dr. Kazem S. M. Mesbah Moosavi

Published on: January 30th, 2019

An interview with Dr. S.M.Kazem Mesbah Moosavi, a Shia scholar and thinker, Dr. Kazem Mesbah Moosavi, the founder and president of Islamic Iranian Centre of Imam Ali. Dr. Mesbah Moosavi is a graduate-researcher from Elmiyeh Seminary in Qom, Iran and received his PhD from McGill University. He has taught for many years as the professor of Islamic studies, theology and philosophy at Elmiyeh seminary, as well as in a number of universities, including McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He has authored many published and unpublished articles in psychology, philosophy, and Islamic studies. There are hundreds of videos of his lectures available for researchers.

Dr. Mesbah Moosavi, thank you for giving your valuable time to Hoda Magazine. We would like to take this opportunity to speak to you about an issue that has become an excuse for those against Islam and is used as evidence of violence in Islamic Laws. As you are aware, the issue of stoning has been used as a tool for false propaganda against Islam and to show that the Quran defends violence, because the Quran rules that some criminals should be stoned, whereas the Bible always speaks of love and friendship, and never condemn anyone to stoning or death. Could you please elaborate on the position of the Quran in regards to stoning?

To answer this question, I should say that the Quran does not mention stoning in any verse. To see how unjust the judgments one should note that what is attributed to Islam in order to poison opinions against Islam is in fact mentioned in the Old Testament. The word “Rajm” meaning Sangsar is mentioned in the Quran, but not in order to state that people should be stoned. It is in the context of infidels threatening the prophets that if they don’t stop their prophecy they would be stoned. Therefore, the Quran only cites others threatening with stoning. The Bible, however, recommends stoning in many instances.


Please elaborate on some instances where the Torah mentions stoning.

Dr. Mesbah Moosavi: There are numerous instances of condemnation to death in the Torah, but I will only mention a few cases:Some of the crimes that are punishable by death by stoning mentioned in the Bible are: homosexuality, the loss of female virginity, rebellion against religion, using “God” or “Jesus” as an expostulation, adultery, teenage rebellion, talking back to parents, and working on Sunday.

The followings are some of the references in the Bible:

1- Disobedience to Parents:

Exodus 21:17 Anyone who curses father or mother will be put to death. Deuteronomy 21:18-21 If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not listen to the voice either of his father or of his mother and, even when they punish him, still will not pay attention to them, his father and mother must take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his town at the gate of that place. To the elders of his town, they will say, “this son of ours is stubborn and rebellious and will not listen to us; he is a wastrel and a drunkard”. All his fellow citizens must then stone him to death. You must banish this evil from among you. All Israel, hearing of this, will be afraid.

2- Abominations:

Leviticus 20:2 ‘Say to the Israelites: “Anyone, be he Israelite or alien resident in Israel, who gives any of his children to Molech, will be put to death. The people of the country must stone him.

3- Loss of female virginity:

Deuteronomy 22:20-21 But if the accusation that the girl cannot show evidence of virginity is substantiated, she must be taken out, and at the door of her father’s house her fellow citizens must stone her to death for having committed an infamy in Israel by bringing disgrace on her father’s family. You must banish this evil from among you.

4- Homosexuality:

Leviticus 20: 13 The man who has intercourse with a man in the same way as with a woman: they have done a hateful thing together; they will be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

5- Blasphemy:

Leviticus 24:16 And anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD will be put to death; the whole community will stone him; be he alien or native-born, if he blasphemes the Name, he will be put to death.

6- Incest:

Leviticus 20:11 The man who has intercourse with his father’s wife has infringed his father’s sexual prerogative. Both of them will be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads. Leviticus 20:12 The man who has intercourse with his daughter-in-law: both of them will be put to death; they have violated nature, their blood will be on their own heads. Leviticus 20:14 The man who marries a woman and her mother: this is incest. They will be burnt alive, he and they; you will not tolerate incest.

7- Witchcraft:

Exodus 22:17 You will not allow a sorceress to live. Leviticus 20:27 Any man or woman of yours who is a necromancer or magician will be put to death; they will be stoned to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

Numbers 3:10 You will register Aaron and his sons, who will carry out their priestly duty. But any unauthorised person who comes near must be put to death.

8- False Prophecy:

Deuteronomy 13:6 That prophet or that dreamer of dreams must be put to death, since he has preached apostasy from Yahweh your God who brought you out of Egypt and redeemed you from the place of slave labour; and he would have diverted you from the way in which Yahweh your God has commanded you to walk. You must banish this evil from among you.

9- Murder:

Exodus 21:12 Anyone who by violence causes a death must be put to death. Exodus 21:15 Anyone who strikes father or mother will be put to death.

10- Adultery:

Leviticus 20:10 The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, even his neighbour’s wife will be put to death, he and the woman.

11- Kidnapping:

Exodus 21:16 Anyone who abducts a person-whether that person has since been sold or is still held-will be put to death.

12- Bestiality:

Leviticus 20:15 The man who has intercourse with an animal will be put to death; you will kill the animal too. Leviticus 20:16 The woman who approaches any animal to have intercourse with it: you will kill the woman and the animal. They will be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

13- Rebellion:

Joshua 1:18 If anyone rebels against your orders or will not listen to your commands, let him be put to death. Only be strong and stand firm. 2 Chr 15:13 That whoever would not seek Yahweh, the God of Israel, should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.

14- Lying with a woman having her menstruation:

Leviticus 20:18 The man who has intercourse with a woman during her monthly periods and exposes her nakedness: he has laid bare the source of her blood, and she has exposed the source of her blood, and both of them will be outlawed from their people.

15- Violations of the Sabbath:

Exodus 31:15 Work must be done for six days, but the seventh day will be a day of complete rest, consecrated to the LORD. Anyone who works on the Sabbath day will be put to death.

This includes: Cooking food on the Sabbath (Exodus 16:25), seeking out food in any way on the Sabbath (Exodus 16:26), leaving home on the Sabbath (Exodus16:29), and making a fire on the Sabbath (Exodus 35:3).

The punishment for breaking these laws was stoning to death, as ordered by GOD in Numbers 15:32-36 and Exodus 31:14 and Exodus 35:2.

Numbers 15:32-36 While the Israelites were in the desert, a man was caught gathering wood on the Sabbath day. Those who caught him gathering wood brought him before Moses, Aaron and the whole community. He was kept in custody, because the penalty he should undergo had not yet been fixed. The LORD said to Moses, “This man must be put to death. The whole community will stone him outside the camp”. The whole community took him outside the camp and stoned him till he was dead, as the LORD had ordered Moses.

16- Worshiping other Gods:

Deuteronomy 13:7-11 If your brother, the son of your father or of your mother, or your son or daughter, or the spouse whom you embrace, or your most intimate friend, tries secretly to seduce you, saying, “Let us go and serve other gods” unknown to you or your ancestors before you, gods of the peoples surrounding you, whether near you or far away, anywhere throughout the world, you must not consent, you must not listen to him; you must show him no pity, you must not spare him or conceal his guilt. No, you must kill him, your hand must strike the first blow in putting him to death and the hands of the rest of the people following. You must stone him to death, since he has tried to divert you from Yahweh, your God who brought you out of Egypt, from the place of slave labour. Deuteronomy 17:2 -5 If there is anyone, man or woman, among you in any of the towns given you by Yahweh your God, who does what is wrong in the eyes of your LORD by violating his covenant, who goes and serves other gods and worships them, or the sun or the moon or any of heaven’s array “a thing I have forbidden” and this person is denounced to you: if after careful enquiry it is found true and confirmed that this hateful thing has been done in Israel, you must take the man or woman guilty of this evil deed outside your city gates, and there you must stone that man or woman to death.

These are some other instances of sentencing to death based on the Bible (Torah), but we shall not mention now.


Considering that stoning is not indicated in the Quran, is Islam against what is stated in the Bible and does it completely negate stoning?

The answer is both “yes” and “no”. Yes Islam is against the instructions on stoning in the Torah, at the same time; we cannot say that Islam is generally against stoning. Stoning is sometimes mentioned in some of the Hadiths as a threat to prevent the destruction of the family system. But carrying out stoning is conditional upon very difficult and rare conditions, which may even be impractical. In other words, stoning is mentioned in some of the Islamic sources only as an emergency situation and a threat in order to prevent the destruction of families, the depression of the spouse and children, and finally, suicide due to depression and other problems.

Before exploring the issue, I should introduce a few concepts. Society, according to Islamic law, is divided into two groups of “Mohsen” and “not Mohsen” . “Mohsen” is someone who is married and possibly has children. “Not Mohsen” is someone who is single and has no obligations towards his / her spouse or children. In Islam, committing an indecent act is a great sin but it is even greater in people who are married and have obligations to their spouses. Since the family unit is very important in Islam, it does not allow its destruction and is gravely against the law-breakers who, for a moment of lust, pursue other married women, possibly mothers, destroying a family and causing disagreements, clashes, anxiety and depression in family members, particularly in children. Therefore, the strongest punishment is for those who play with the emotions and chastity of others and involve their own family members as well as those of the other family in indescribable crises. Islam says that if someone has a spouse who loves him and has invested all her hope and love in him, he cannot betray his spouse and start love in some other place, especially with a woman who is married herself and is probably a mother.

If anyone could enter the private space of another home and due to lust, burn and destroy his life and that of others and destroy two families in flames of family quarrels, human society would face grave depression, fights, suicides, etc. It is here that Islam uses stoning as a threat rather than carrying it out, since the conditions for stoning are so harsh that we rarely see the possibility of executing this law, and the goal of Islam is warning criminals who want to sacrifice their own and others’ families to pursue their own lust and desire.


In your discussions, you pointed out that in contrast to the Old Testament (Torah), Islam mentions stoning as an emergency measure and stoning is more of a warning and threat that is often impractical. Could you please explain this issue?

The conditions that Islam suggests in executing this law are so difficult that in most cases, it is impossible to carry out the sentence and it serves as a warning. One of the conditions is that four just men should testify at the same time and place that they have all witnessed the intercourse with all of its details, and not only its introductory actions, between a married man and a married woman, and in explaining the details they should all be in agreement.

Here, I should point out a few things:

1) Execution of this law is conditional upon testimony of four and some cases eight just people who follow all religious requirements and avoid all prohibitions, and who are well-known to be honest in the community, such that there is no possibility of them lying. Now, is it in fact easy to find such people? And would such just and honest people interfere with people’s private lives and spy on their privacy to be able to testify in a court? Is spying on others not against the principles of the Quran? And is it possible for such a person after disturbing others’ privacy, to be honest and Godly? No. A just and faithful person does not look at other people’s private spaces to then testify in a court.

2) The testimony of the four or eight witnesses must be at the same time and place and completely similar, so that if only two people show up at court and testify, the judge will not wait for the other two, and therefore, the first two are whipped, because they have uttered such things against others. Therefore, people are warned not to utter such things before a judge, in order to prevent stoning.

3) Islam says that if a married man intends to be adulterous with a married woman, the fact that he has the intention is not by itself important in the law of stoning. Even the act of going to her bedroom and removing clothing is not enough; although they are great sins, but not for the purpose of stoning. If the witnesses who are just people and have never sinned, never missed their prayers, have followed all religious obligations, and have never lied, testify that they have seen the sin (intercourse) with all of the details, then Islam orders death with stoning.

But this is practically impossible. It is almost impossible to have a case where all witnesses can see a scene of betrayal, because those who betray look for private spaces and hide their actions from the public eye. However, it is possible to find people who intentionally want to commit the sin so obviously that others in the street can see them; they officially build foundations of betrayal and destroy families, like some Marxists who do not believe in the concept of family and suggest a society similar to that of animals where there is no limitation, law, or order in sexual relations and the formation of families. In the latter case, the punishment will be applicable.


During this discussion, you have mentioned several times that the Quran does not mention stoning. What then, is the source of stoning in those limited cases?

This is a good question. There is no mention of stoning in the Quran but it is rooted in other Islamic sources and the goal of this law is to threaten and stop people from destroying families.


Are there other sources than the Quran for Islamic laws?

Dr.Mesbah Moosavi: Yes, the Quran is one of the sources. But in most laws, especially in details, the Quran is not used, and three sources of wisdom, tradition (“sonnat”) and consensus (“ejma”) are used as Islamic sources. However, the explanation of this issue is beyond the scope of our discussion and requires a separate discourse.

Let us go back to the issue of stoning, the main topic of this discussion. You pointed out that stoning is mainly mentioned in the Holy Books the Bible and the Torah and that it is not significant in the Quran. If so, why is stoning usually used in order to criticize Islam and why do those against Islam extensively emphasize stoning?

As I explained earlier, the issue of stoning is mostly related to the Holy Books of the Jews and the Christians, and is very limited in Islam, as a warning rather than a practice. But it is often documented as being an Islamic law due to ill-intent and unjust judgments by enemies of Islam.


Thank you professor, your answers are very clear, but one issue is still puzzling and that is the occurrence of stoning in Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan?

Dr.Mesbah Moosavi: As I have tried to outline in this interview, stoning is based on complex conditions, which are difficult to practice. Unless the accused confesses to it, in which case you can doubt the sanity of the accused. Therefore, one should ask those who condemn people to stoning about the evidence and how they can justify their actions before the “forgiving” and “kind” God.

According to some Hadiths, the Holy Imams (PBUT) say that the love of God for his servants is deeper than the love of a mother for her child. Also in the Quran, God is named “Compassionate, “Merciful” “loving”, “forgiving” and “kind” and other names that show his unlimited kindness towards His servants. By considering the difficult conditions of the law of stoning, if those who carry this law out can answer the “Kind” and “Forgiving” God then they may be able to justify their actions for others!

Thank you again for giving your valuable time to Hoda magazine, and we hope to be able to discuss other issues with you in the future.

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