Why Muslims throw stones at Hindu processions – Gopal Goswami

Stoning the Devil's pillar at Mina.

Gopal GoswamiMuslim stone-pelting during Hindu festivals also expose the so-called liberals in the country who find problems with Jai Shri Ram slogans. They are, however, fine with Muharram processions which while passing through a temple area indulge in similar sloganeering. In a democratic set up there cannot be two parameters for two different communities. – Gopal Goswami

Stone-pelting has become the talk of the town following the processions of Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti being attacked in several states across the country. These incidents were observed in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Jharkhand, etc, where such processions were attacked with stones.

This year, it started with the Hindu Nav Varsha Shobha Yatra being attacked fiercely by a Muslim mob in Karauli district of Rajasthan. Many people were injured and several houses were set on fire by the rioters for the alleged chanting of objectionable slogans by Hindus. Stone-pelting has been a traditional weapon for Kashmiri separatists for a long time.

Stone-pelting is used because it is easy to do it. It is easy to collect stones from neighbouring areas and store them on the rooftops to use during processions. Remember, the infamous Delhi riots? A large number of stones and brickbats were sieged on the terrace of an AAP municipal councillor.

In Islam, however, stone-pelting is more than just an act of protest. In this perspective, consider the “Rami al-Jamarat”, also known as “Stoning the Devil”. It is performed as part of the yearly Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia’s city of Mecca. During this ceremony, Muslim pilgrims hurl pebbles against three walls known as the Jamarat in the city of Mina, which is located east of Mecca.

One of the religious acts that must be performed during Hajj is the stoning of the Devil. It’s a recreation of Abraham’s Hajj, in which he stoned three pillars to symbolise the temptation to defy God and save Ishmael. The pilgrims must hit one of the bigger pillars with seven pebbles on the 10th day of the month of Dhu-al-Hijjah, according to the rite. The pilgrim must shave his hair once this is accomplished. The pilgrim must strike each of the three walls with seven pebbles on each of the next two days.

The Islamic practice of stoning is not restricted to pillars, which are seen as the personification of Satan; adult men and women are frequently beaten and stoned to death in Islamic nations for committing the alleged sin of “adultery”.

The Quran states in Chapter 24 (An-Nur) Verse 2: “As for female and male fornicators, give them each one hundred lashes, and do not let sympathy for them cause you to be lenient in executing Allah’s rule, if you sincerely believe in Allah and the Last Day.”

Although the holy book makes no explicit reference of death for adultery, the Hadith of Sahih Muslim (which contains Prophet Muhammad’s sayings) asserts differently. For example, Hadith No. 4191 in Sahih Muslim Book 17 states, “Ubada b. as-Samit reported Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) saying: ‘Receive (teaching) from me, receive (teaching) from me.’ Allah has made a route for those who believe (women). When an unmarried guy commits adultery with an unmarried female, he shall be punished with one hundred lashes and exile for a year. And if a married man commits adultery with a married woman, he will get 100 lashes and be stoned to death.”

The difference in penalty for adultery between the Quran and Hadith is discussed in Sahih Muslim Book 17, Hadith No. 4194. It reads, “… I am worried that as time passes, the people may forget it and claim, ‘We do not find the penalty of stoning in the Book of Allah,’ and so go astray by abandoning this obligation established by Allah. Stoning is a punishment prescribed by Allah in His Book for married men and women who commit adultery when the proof is confirmed, or if there is pregnancy or a confession.”

The current trend of stone-pelting may have been inspired by this religious sanction for stoning. The world leaders need to sit and discuss this with the Muslim clerics to find an amicable solution.

The recent incidents of stone-pelting during Hindu festivals also expose the so-called liberals in the country who find problems with Jai Shri Ram slogans. They are, however, fine with Muharram processions which while passing through a temple area indulge in similar sloganeering. In a democratic set up there cannot be two parameters for two different communities. This is not good for peace and harmony, which can come only when there is mutual respect for each other’s way of life and festivals. – Firstpost, 22 April 2022

Gopal Goswami is an author, social worker and  research scholar at SVNIT, Surat, Gujarat.

Muslims pelt stones at Sri Ram Yatra in Mulbagal, Karnataka.