I Still Believe In Islamic Law

But the Nigerian stoning-for-adultery case has made me call for a moratorium on applying it.

BY: Hesham A. Hassaballa

 

An Islamic appeals court in Nigeria has overturned the conviction of Amina Lawal, a Nigerian woman condemned to death by stoning for allegedly committing adultery. Convicted by an Islamic court in March 2002, Lawal's case stirred international condemnation.



On September 25, the appeals court ruled that the conviction could not stand due to procedural errors, and because Lawal was not given "ample opportunity to defend herself." Defense attorney Hauwa Ibrahim hailed the decision, saying, "It's a victory for law. It's a victory for justice, and it's a victory for what we stand for - dignity and fundamental human rights."

I cannot express how happy I was when I read of the appeals court's decision. Amina Lawal's case, along with that of another Nigerian woman, Safiya Husseini, who also had her stoning conviction overturned, has led to me reiterate my call for a moratorium on the imposition of Islamic law.

Yet I still believe in Islamic law. In fact, I take issue with the statement of Francois Cantier, of Lawyers Without Borders, who said, "We think that death by stoning is contrary to international treaties against torture which Nigeria has ratified. We think that death by stoning is a degrading human treatment."

There is controversy among Muslims over whether death by stoning is even a punishment sanctioned by Islamic law. But I uphold the harshness meted out for the crime of adultery in Islamic law, even if the punishment is only 100 lashes and not stoning. One of the principal foundations of society is the family, and adultery utterly decimates the family. Once the family is destroyed, the destruction of society soon follows.

But the Lawal case was bad Islamic law.

I have previously condemned the initial death sentence against Amina Lawal as unjust and completely contrary to Islamic principles. First, there is no verse in the Qur'an that dictates death by stoning as punishment for adultery. The Qur'an proscribes 100 lashes as the punishment for adultery or fornication: "The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication,- flog each of them with a hundred stripes: Let not compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by God, if ye believe in God and the Last Day: and let a party of the Believers witness their punishment" (24:2) There are, however, multiple reports in the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that do indicate the punishment for adultery--extramartial sexual relations--is indeed death by stoning.

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