Stoning has been used throughout history in a number of places, both in the form of community justice and also as a judicial form of capital punishment. The practice is referred to in Greek history, as well as Christian, Jewish, and Islamic texts. In the Bible it often occurs, or almost occurs, to righteous people or as the result of mob action (see lists below).
According to the Talmud stoning should be an instant death with the first stone being so heavy it must be heaved off a cliff to inflict the fatal blow.
As with many religions today, not all holy books reference a particular topic. Islamic scholars argue both sides of stoning within Islam, but regardless, many cases of stoning continue to this day. However, unlike Judaism where for capital punishment to take place two reputable witnesses must witness the Hadd offense including stoning Hadd, in Islam stoning (which is the penalty for committing adultery under marriage wedlock only) is the only capital punishment which requires four extremely well reputed (A very strict criteria is also given by Islam to accept the reputation of witness) witnesses "accusers" to admit that they saw the defenders sexually interact. It is also important to note that in Islam a person whom admit adultery can be the witness upon himself only, yet according to shari`a law he must oath on himself four times before he can be punished with the appropriate punishment which is stoning if the person is under wedlock or lashing a 100 lash if the person is not under wedlock. Husbands can also launch a charge against their spouses, and have (in support) no evidence but their own,- their solitary evidence (can be received) if they bear witness four times (with an oath) by Allah that they are solemnly telling the truth; And the fifth (oath) (should be) that they solemnly invoke the curse of Allah on themselves if they tell a lie;But it would avert the punishment from the wife, if she bears witness four times (with an oath) By Allah, that (her husband) is telling a lie; And the fifth (oath) should be that she solemnly invokes the wrath of Allah on herself if (her accuser) is telling the truth; Verse 24.006 - 24.009 The last possible way for stoning as penalty for adultery under wedlock is that a woman concealing under marriage wedlock, considering that DNA is not accepted as an evidence in shar'ia law.
In Iran, stoning as a punishment did not exist until 1983, when the contemporary Islamic Penal Code was ratified. Many Muslim jurists in Iran are of the opinion that while stoning can be considered Islamic, the conditions under which it can be sentenced are nearly impossible to occur. Because of the large burden of proof needed to reach a guilty sentence of adultery, its penalty is hardly ever applicable. Furthermore, while legally on the books, because of the enormity of both domestic and international controversy and outcry over stoning in the early years of the Islamic republic, the government placed official moratoriums on the punishment and, as a result, it was rarely practiced. Nevertheless, much of the public was outraged that such a backward and tortuous ritual became instituted in the laws of their country. In 2002 Iran's judiciary indicated that stoning will no longer be practiced in Iran. However, it continued. In 2008, Iran's judiciary once again said it planned to stop stoning as a form of punishment; however, it will still be a legal form of punishment.
In August 2008 the Global Campaign to Stop Killing and Stoning Women! announced that there were still at least eight women and one man sentenced to die by stoning for convictions of prostitution, incest and adultery. Two were granted amnesty, two received reduced sentences of imprisonment and/or lashes and five cases are under review. The spokesman for the Iranian judiciary, Alireza Jamshidi, said in a statement, "Don’t forget. One cannot remove the punishment of stoning from the law." The case of Kobra Najjar, a 44 year old woman who was convicted of adultery, but who some say was forced into prostitution by her husband, has received international attention. She has reportedly exhausted all legal recourse for her conviction, with a sentence of death by stoning.
The death sentences through stoning of the years 2000 and 2001 in Northern Nigeria sparked international discussion on Shari`a’s imposition of stoning. Between 2000 and 2001 twelve northern Nigerian states officially declared Shari`a to be their criminal code again, even though many of its regulations conflict with the Nigerian constitution. The introduction of Shari`a law directly and indirectly led to many violent riots.
However, the Talmud limits the use of the death penalty to Jewish criminals who: (a) while about to do the crime were warned not to commit the crime while in the presence of two witnesses (and only individuals who meet a strict list of standards are considered acceptable witnesses); and (b) having been warned, committed the crime in front of the same two witnesses.
The Talmudic restriction on how stoning is to be carried out differs from the type of stoning commonly assumed, such as the type implied by the Gospel of John chapter 8 in the New Testament. According to the Jewish Oral Law, after the Jewish criminal has been determined as guilty before the Great Sanhedrin, the two valid witnesses and the sentenced criminal go to the edge of a high place. From there the two witnesses are to push the criminal off. After the criminal has fallen, the two witnesses are to drop a large boulder onto the criminal - requiring both of the witnesses to lift the boulder together. If the criminal did not die from the fall or from the crushing of the large boulder, then any people in the surrounding area are to quickly cause him to die by stoning with whatever rocks they can find. It must be noted though that the practice has for many hundreds of years been considered inhumane by all religious and secular scholars and would never be used.
Stoning has never been a legal form of punishment in the State of Israel.
Specific sentences of stoning, such as the Amina Lawal case, have often generated international protest. Groups like Human Rights Watch, while in sympathy with these protests, have raised a concern that the Western focus on stoning as an especially "exotic" or "barbaric" act distracts from what they view as the larger problems of capital punishment. They argue that the "more fundamental human rights issue in Nigeria is the dysfunctional justice system."
In Iran, the Stop Stoning Forever Campaign was formed by various women’s rights activists after two individuals were stoned to death in Mashhad Iran in May of 2006. Their main goal is to legally abolish stoning as a form of punishment for adultery in Iran.