Method of capital punishment where the convicted person is killed by injuries sustained by having rocks thrown at them. Quite common in Middle Eastern areas and religions of the book, perhaps because of the abundance of stones in the Levant.

Ancient Times

Deuteronomy is quite particular on the point that convicted murderers, blasphemers and apostates should meet their end through a legitimate stoning.

If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; (13:6)

But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. (13:9)

And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. (13:10)

The book of Acts state that Jesus was sentenced to death by stoning, but survived. Some of his followers like Stephen weren't so lucky.

The Talmud (Mishna, Sanhedrin) extends death by stoning (Skila in Hebrew) to people who engage in incest, homosexuality, adultery or to especially rebellious children, although it cannot be imposed for somebody's first capital offence. Silka is slightly more humane than the conventional idea of stoning - the condemned is thrown off scaffolding 'the height of two men', and then is finished off by a few large rocks being dropped on his dazed body.

Stoning is endorsed and explained in the Koran.

Ubada bin as-Samit reported that whenever Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) received revelation, he felt its rigour and the complexion of his face changed. One day revelation descended upon him, he felt the same rigour. When it was over and he felt relief, he said: Take from me. Verily Allah has ordained a way for them (the women who commit fornication),: (When) a married man (commits adultery) with a married woman, and an unmarried male with an unmarried woman, then in case of married (persons) there is (a punishment) of one hundred lashes and then stoning (to death). And in case of unmarried persons, (the punishment) is one hundred lashes and exile for one year.

The Koran, Kitab Al-Hudud

Stoning plays its part in hajj rituals; pilgrims to Mina in Saudi Arabia throw stones at a pillar representing Satan. This ceremony has frequently lead to deadly stampedes.

Middle Ages

Stoning is not known to have been in force in Western countries, although Peine forte et dure (strong and hard punishment) or 'pressing' was used in common law jurisdictions in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The aim of pressing was to force recalcitrant defendants to enter a plea, by forcing them to lie on their backs and progressively placing heavier and heavier stones on their chests. Eventually the defendant would either plea guilty (and be executed), plea not guilty (and so more torture will be imposed on them until they plea guilty) or die (which is better than being executed, since then their assets will go to their heirs rather than the Crown or state). Pressing was abolished in the United Kingdom in 1772.

Stoning Today

Stoning is currently in practice in Sharia jurisdictions, including Afghanistan (including after the rule of the Taliban), Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates and the northern states of Nigeria (where adultery and sodomy are crimes that attract death by stoning).

Under Sharia conventions, the condemned is wrapped in a sheet and buried to the waist (if male) or neck (if female), before being pelted by a crowd with stones. In some cases, the condemned person may be pardoned if they manage to wriggle out and escape.

In modern times in Iran and Nigeria children as young as thirteen have been sentenced to death by stoning, attracting global condemnation. One Nigerian woman, Amina Lawal, was sentenced to death by stoning over allegations of adultery in 2002. An international campaign eventually led to an appeal, which quashed the original verdict on account of technical errors in the judicial process.

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