Here is a post, inspired by what Robert Spencer wrote in The Truth about Muhammad, comparing justice, historically and currently, in Judaism to that in Islam.
In page 120 of his book, Spencer mentions a Hadīth. (From this point on, everything is my extrapolation.)
Volume 4, Book 56, Number 829:
Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar:
The Jews came to Allah’s Apostle and told him that a man and a woman from amongst them had committed illegal sexual intercourse. Allah’s Apostle said to them, “What do you find in the Torah about the legal punishment of Ar-Rajm (stoning)?” They replied, (But) we announce their crime and lash them.” Abdullah bin Salam said, “You are telling a lie; Torah contains the order of Rajm.” They brought and opened the Torah and one of them solaced his hand on the Verse of Rajm and read the verses preceding and following it. Abdullah bin Salam said to him, “Lift your hand.” When he lifted his hand, the Verse of Rajm was written there. They said, “Muhammad has told the truth; the Torah has the Verse of Rajm.” The Prophet then gave the order that both of them should be stoned to death. ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar said, “I saw the man leaning over the woman to shelter her from the stones.”
1. I have my doubts whether this happened, or if it happened whether the particulars were exactly as stated, but let us say for the sake of argument that the above narration is factually accurate, that what happened took place as it happened above. Let me then explain the Jewish perspective, and then you can be the judge as to who was morally superior.
It is true that Torah1 prescribes stoning for adulterers, among other sins. The Jews above knew that, and they knew that this is explicitly stated in Torah.
But Muhammad did not understand one very important point; and how would Jews expect any non-Jew to understand or care about this point, its importance notwithstanding? This point is that in Jewish theology and parlance, “Torah” refers to two bodies of written works: the Written Torah (תורה שבּכתב; torah she-bi-khtav, “Torah that is written”) and the Oral Torah (תורה שבּעל פב; torah she-be-al peh, “Torah which is from mouth”). Each is considered equally divine, binding, necessary, and compulsory.
The Jewish movement that developed this theory was (and is) called Rabbinic Judaism, because it centers around rabbis, or experts or teachers, who expound on, teach, and explain the Oral Torah. Whereas the Written Torah is present before all of Israel in the form of the scrolls of Torah, the Oral Torah was given to Moses by God, to Joshua son of Nun by Moses, the Men of the Great Assembly by Joshua son of Nun, and so on and so forth to the rabbis until it was written down under Rabbi Judah haNasi. Even after that, rabbis were needed to interpret, safeguard, and implement the Oral Torah.
Under this theory, both are equally necessary and divine. The Written Torah’s commandments and doctrines would be incomplete and even incomprehensible without the accompanying instructions, explanations, interpretations, rulings, and debates found in the Oral Torah. For example, in a portion recited twice a day by Jews, the Written Torah mandates that Jews will place mezuzot on their doorposts and that something is to be “signs for your hand” and “totafot between your eyes”. There is no other explanation in the entire Written Torah about what any of this means. Therefore, the Oral Torah is needed to explain it, to fill in the blanks, as it were. (Islam also has an Oral Torah of sorts: aHādīth, sunnah, sharī‛ah, et cetera.)
Back to the discussion at hand. The Written Torah explicitly mandates stoning for certain sins. However, the history of post-Biblical Jews shows something different all together: despite these mandates, the Jews were extremely reluctant to execute anyone (by stoning or otherwise). In fact, they believed that having to execute someone was counted a failure of the Jewish courts (especially the high court, the Sanhedrin).
Recall that the prophets in the Hebrew Bible were not afraid the chastize the Jews for spiritual adultery and other sins. They openly spoke against the Jewish people who sinned against God, explicitly ennumerating their sins against God, making clear against what God was angry. But none of them condemned the Jews for failing to execute sinners who deserve death. No, instead it seemed that God’s wrath was kindled by lack of justice and charity and fidelity in worship to God. (And sinas/sinat chinam, baseless hatred, according to the Oral Torah.)
Now back to the Jews in the hadīth. Muhammad asked them what punishment Torah mandated. The Jews knew what the answer would be (“stone them to death”), and they would have known what Muhammad was say next (“then do it!”), but this goes against centuries, if not millennia, of Jewish law and practice, and they could not possibly explain to Muhammad why executing them would go against God’s law. Muhammad did not ask them, “What does the Talmud (Oral Torah) say?” or “What do your rabbis say?”: he asked them what Torah (the Written Torah; Muhammad rejected the Oral Torah as corruption and innovation) said.
In this case, they chose leniency and deception (Muhammad should know a lot about the latter) over merciless stringency and technical veracity: they hid the part that said that adulterers should be stoned to death. But then ‛Abdullāh bin Salām (a Jewish rabbi who converted to Islam2) accused the Jew reading from Torah of lying, of hiding a portion of Torah he was reading. And he was: his hand covered up the commandment to stone adulterers to death. He read what was before it and what was after it, but that part he covered. He was forced to remove his hand, this commandment was revealed, and Muhammad was proved right.
And so, instead of Jewish leniency (humiliation and lashes instead of stoning to death) Muhammad imposed his doctrine of Sacred Scripture, leaving the Jews unable to adhere to theirs. Of course, if they tried to explain to Muhammad why they would lash their adulterers rather than stone them, Muhammad would condemn them for changing God’s word, for disobeying God. And then launch into another invective on the infidelity of Jews to God’s word, their untrustworthiness, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Even though, according to Jewish doctrine, this would not be true. After all, according to them, the Written Torah is only half, at least, of what God revealed.3
This has repurcussions to this day. Islam believes in “prescribed punishments,” often called (حدود, Hudūd, literally “limits”). This means that for certain crimes, there are certain punishments. Muslims are obligated to follow the rules concerning such punishments. They cannot be overruled, set aside, changed, or otherwise avoided. To do so would be to go against God’s revelations. So Muslims do not have the luxury, as it were, to become lenient like Jews were and as Western civilization is now. (Adultery, fornication, and so on, aren’t even crimes, let alone punished.) And so Muslims are stuck with such backwards, primitive, and barbaric punishments.
This is somewhat ironic, if one thinks about it. The Qur’ān is full of references of God as merciful; in fact, every (سورة, sūrah, “chapter of the Qur’ān”) begins with such a reference (except for one: the sūrah of the Sword, sūrah 9: سورة التوبة, sūrah at-tawbah). Islamic prayers are similarly redundant. On the other hand, Jewish texts do not mention God as merciful as many times as the Qur’ān does. Jewish prayers do mention God as merciful (הרחמן, harachaman, “the merciful”). But if you look at the people (“by their fruit you shall know them”), which one seem to believe in and follow a merciful God?
2. The last sentence of the Hadīth, in my opinion, demonstrates true love. They are not simply being stoned but stoned to death. As futile as it may have been, the man’s heart was so full of love that he bent over his woman to shelter and protect her. Just imagining this, for some reason, makes my eyes moist. I cannot see how this could be condemnable by death.
1: Torah: Literally “Law,” referring to first five books of the Hebrew Bible, which in English are known by the names of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, and which are known in Hebrew as B’reshit (בּראשׁית; “In the beginning”), Sh’mot (שׁמות; “Names”), Vayiqra (ויקרא; “And He called”), B’midbar (בּמדבּר; “In the wilderness”), and D’varim (דברים; “Words”).
2: Jews are obligated to pray three times a day. The central prayer is called Amidah (עמידה, “Standing”) or Sh’monei Esrei (שמונה עשרה, “Eighteen”): the former because it is prayed while standing, and the latter because it consisted of eighteen portions (called, technically, בּרכות, birchot or birchos, “blessings”) although a nineteenth one was added later. This new one (added between AD 80 and 118) is known as (בּרכת המינים, birchat or birchas haminim, “the ‘blessing’ of the heretics” or ולמלשינים, v’lamalshinim, “and to/about the slanderers”: the first one mentions the theme while the second one consists of the first words of the ‘blessing’). This ‘blessing’ asks God to punish heretics, enemies, and “wanton sinners”. To be honest, this portion always made me feel uncomfortable. But ‛Abdullāh bin Salām – a Jewish rabbi who converted to Islam – makes me realize just how much suffering such heretics and apostates have caused for Jews collectively. Many Jews converted to Islam have caused suffering for them.
3: Compare Muhammad’s response and reaction to that of Jesus (in the Arabic of Muslims: عيسى بن مريم, ‛īsā bin mariyam, “‛Isā/Jesus son of Mariyam/Mary”; in the Arabic of Christians: يسوع المسيح, yisū‛ al-masīH, “Yisū‛/Jesus the Messiah”) according to John 8:1-11.