Apr 2, 2013

Capital Punishment in Islam

Capital Punishment or Death Penalty

Capital Punishment in Islam
By Huda

"...If anyone kills a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he killed all people. And if anyone saves a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all people" (Qur'an 5:32).

Life is sacred, according to Islam and most other world faiths. But how can one hold life sacred, yet still support capital punishment? The Qur'an answers, "...Take not life, which God has made sacred, except by way of justice and law. Thus does He command you, so that you may learn wisdom" (6:151).

The key point is that one may take life only "by way of justice and law." In Islam, therefore, the death penalty can be applied by a court as punishment for the most serious of crimes. Ultimately, one's eternal punishment is in God's hands, but there is a place for punishment in this life as well. The spirit of the Islamic penal code is to save lives, promote justice, and prevent corruption and tyranny.

Islamic philosophy holds that a harsh punishment serves as a deterrent to serious crimes that harm individual victims, or threaten to destabilize the foundation of society. According to Islamic law (in the first verse quoted above), the following two crimes can be punishable by death:

-Intentional murder
-Fasad fil-ardh ("spreading mischief in the land")

Intentional Murder
The Qur'an legislates the death penalty for murder, although forgiveness and compassion are strongly encouraged. The murder victim's family is given a choice to either insist on the death penalty, or to pardon the perpetrator and accept monetary compensation for their loss (2:178).

Fasaad fi al-ardh

The second crime for which capital punishment can be applied is a bit more open to interpretation. "Spreading mischief in the land" can mean many different things, but is generally interpreted to mean those crimes that affect the community as a whole, and destabilize the society. Crimes that have fallen under this description have included:

-Treason / Apostacy (when one leaves the faith and joins the enemy in fighting against the Muslim community)
-Land, sea, or air piracy
-Homosexual behaviorActual methods of capital punishment vary from place to place. In some Muslim countries, methods have included beheading, hanging, stoning, and firing squad. Executions are held publicly, to serve as warnings to would-be criminals.

It is important to note that there is no place for vigilantism in Islam -- one must be properly convicted in an Islamic court of law before the punishment can be meted out. The severity of the punishment requires that very strict evidence standards must be met before a conviction is found. The court also has flexibility to order less than the ultimate punishment (for example, imposing fines or prison sentences), on a case-by-case basis.

The Penalty for Apostasy 
Sheikh Abu-Ishaq al-Huwayni

‘Hanging’ as a Deterrent — A view from Islam

Friday, 27 Rajab 1428The demand for ‘hanging’ of condemned murderers has provoked many to respond negatively. The basic argument raised by the critics is that capital punishment does not function, or no longer functions, as a deterrent to the crime of murder. They argue that even if all those on death row were to be ‘hanged’, the killings and murders would still continue, and may very well increase despite the ‘hangings’. Since the impression was created that the decision to resume hangings was a political response to runaway crime (including murder), it was not unreasonable to infer the rationale for that decision, to wit, that a resumption of hangings would deter would-be murderers.

We write from the perspective of Islam to agree with the argument that while ‘hangings’ can still deter acts of terrorism, they do not deter today’s random murders or, at least, can no longer do so. From whence do we derive this view? Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) prophesied the coming of a Last Age (which would culminate with the return of Jesus, the true Messiah), with a momentous sign of ‘killing’ and ‘murders’ becoming so random, commonplace and senseless, that “… the one who was killed would not know why he was killed, and the killer would not know why he killed” (perhaps because the paymaster did not inform him). He also prophesied, “… each time would be succeeded by one that would be worse than the previous”. Hence murders would constantly escalate with governments helpless at that time to prevent that calamity. We now live in that Last Age in which Prophet Muhammad’s prophecies are constantly and dramatically being fulfilled to the ever-increasing dismay of those who rejected him and declared him to be an imposter and a false prophet.

There is, of course, an explanation for today’s rampant crime, including killing. When a people forget Allah Most High (by ignoring His Laws, for example), they eventually forget their own (human) selves and live and die like animals. The present essentially godless age is waging war on religion in general, and on Islam in particular, and as a result sincere worship and obedience of the One God is constantly and ominously receding from the world. Secondly, values are collapsing around the world, and as they collapse injustice and oppression increasingly prevail. Those who today control power in the world use that power to oppress, to corrupt, and to wage war on the poor masses. They kill in the millions – while individual bandits, murderers and kidnappers merely walk in their bloodstained footsteps.

It was, perhaps, because of His pre-knowledge of the Last Age with its endless killings and murders, as well as adultery and fornication, that Allah Most High Himself recognized the need to abrogate His own Law concerning the use of capital punishment as deterrent punishment for adultery and fornication. The Law of the Torah, revealed to Moses (peace be upon him), had imposed ‘stoning to death’ as the divine punishment for adultery. But when the Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that Law was abrogated and was replaced with a new Law of a ‘public flogging’. At the same time, however, the sacred law reaffirmed the validity of ‘deterrent’ punishment while retaining the law of ‘cutting off’ the hand of the thief, as well as instituting capital punishment for acts of terrorism, and the new law of ‘public flogging’ for adultery.

But ‘deterrence’ was recognized in the philosophy of punishment in Islam to be only one of at least three different functions of punishment. There is that punishment which is inflicted with the intention of ‘reforming’ someone’s conduct. Allah Most High sometimes punishes by taking away wealth or health in order that one might awaken to his evil ways and reform himself. Then, in addition to the ‘deterrent’ and ‘reformatory’ there is also ‘retributive’ punishment in the form of divinely ordained ‘punitive retaliation’ (al-Qisaas) that is inflicted in order to meet the demand for ‘equity’ in justice. Thus did the divine law prescribe ‘retaliatory’ punishment of ‘an eye for and eye’, ‘a tooth for a tooth’, and ‘a life for a life’. He, who, alone ‘gives’ life, promulgated that divine law which sanctioned the ‘taking’ of a life. The critics of capital punishment cannot give life – they cannot create even a housefly. And so, if ours is to be a just society preserving equity in justice, it must retain capital punishment, at least for murderers.

However, the divine law also made it possible for the life of the murderer to be spared if the family that lost a life willingly agreed to such. This sometimes entailed payment of compensation for loss to those dependents of the deceased. In the event that the murderer did not possess enough wealth with which to pay that compensation, then friends, family, and the tribe, nation or group to which he belonged were expected to contribute to the payment of the compensation. Also, once his life was spared the murderer was a free man and could himself contribute to compensation through his future earnings. If, on the other hand, the families of the deceased refused to show mercy and, instead, demanded justice in the form of ‘a life for a life’, the state was obliged to enforce capital punishment in order to conform with ‘equity’ in justice.

The divine law of ‘a life for a life’ limited capital punishment to the one who actually took a life. And hence an accomplice to murder would not be required to pay for that crime with his life. In addition those who enforced capital punishment had to take the greatest possible care to ensure that no innocent person was ever executed. Hence the divine ‘law of evidence’ never admitted ‘tainted’ evidence obtained from confessed criminals through the morally corrupt method of ‘plea bargaining’. Finally there is absolutely no justification for us to persist with ‘hanging’ when other less brutal forms of taking the life of a common murderer can easily be adopted without any infringement of the ‘life-for-a-life’ principle of equity in justice.

Capital Punishment Awarded to a Muslim for Murdering None-Muslim
Sheikh Muhammad Tahir Ul Qadri


In the modern democratic world there is debate whether capital punishment should be awarded for any crime howsoever serious. Many people are shocked at this debate and feel how capital punishment could be abolished at all. They feel that it is fear of death punishment which keeps criminals and murderers restrained. If the capital punishment is abolished, they argue, people will not be safe and the graph of the murder will soar high. However, these are not sound arguments. At one time the pick pockets were also hanged in England and when the death sentence for pick pocketing was sought to be abolished same argument was advanced that no pocket will be safe. It is also pointed out that when a pickpocket was being hanged and the people had gathered to witnesses his execution, some pockets were being picked.
It is not always true that a stringent punishment is sufficient to check crime. At best, it is one of the factors necessary to control crime but never a sufficient one. There are several causes among which social, economic and educational ones are quite important. One cannot check crime without creating congenial social and economic conditions, on one hand, and educating people and creating proper moral atmosphere, on the other. Socio-economic conditions, and not mere lack of stringent punishment, encourage crime. If there is poverty and high rate of unemployment and also widespread illiteracy and lack of moral education, crimes, including murder will thrive. Also, even if there is no absolute poverty and unemployment, but serious structural imbalances and serious socio-economic differentials, crime rates will go up.
It has been observed by sociologists and statistics also prove that stringent application of capital punishment has never brought down the number of murders. And, on the other hand, abolition of capital punishment is not known to have pushed up the number of murders. There are various causes of murder in the society. Some murders take place under severe provocation as well as emotional instability and some murders take place because of insatiable greed, property disputes and similar other causes. Some murders take place because of wrong notions of family honour and some murders take place because of sexual affairs with ones wife. In several Islamic countries like Pakistan, Egypt and Jordan, honour killings are quite common. A daughter or sister is killed just because she wants to marry someone of her own choice or she enters into a love affair with a friend. In Pakistan one woman was shot dead at the instance of her own mother, as she wanted to divorce her husband. Divorce became a question of family hor for the parents who hailed from North West Frontier Area of Pakistan which has strong tribal traditions of family honour.
Some murders are planned and executed and such murders are referred to as 'cold-blooded murders. Such murders are often out of personal vendetta or on account of property disputes or sexual affairs. Some times a film also becomes as cause for murder as it happened in Pune when five members of Dandekar family were murdered by some youth after watching a movie. They just wanted to imitate a scene in the film. Some murders are committed in a state of inebriation. Thus it will be seen there are varied causes of murder some deliberate and some beyond ones control. Where murders are well planned the assumption is that they will not leave behind any proof and will never be caught. Thus the murderers hardly have any fear of any punishment, let alone that of death punishment. They often think and do deceive the law. And those who commit murders under severe provocation or out of sheer frustration hardly have any control on themselves. It is for these reasons that retention or abolition of death penalty hardly brings down the rate of murder in the society.
Thus retention of capital punishment can hardly be an effective weapon of bringing down or checking the rate of murder in the society. Also, any judgement of the court, howsoever well arrived at, cannot be totally infallible. Judges are human beings and can err. Some times death penalty is pronounced by a thin majority of one, other judges dissenting. Thus a human life can be snuffed out even erroneously. Both possibilities are there: An innocent person being hanged and a guilty escaping the punishment. But, in case of capital punishment, it is always better that a guilty be discharged than an innocent person being hanged. Also, much depends on quality and truthfulness of witnesses, their memory and their perceptions as well as their motivations. Often witnesses do not give testimony truthfully for fear of their own life. Some witnesses can be bought. The ability of defence lawyer or that of prosecuting lawyer can also make all the difference. A murderer thus can escape the clutches of law by hiring a competent defence lawyer and by purchasing the witnesses. An innocent person, on the other hand, can be awarded death punishment just because he cannot afford a competent lawyer and is unable, for various reasons, to marshal proper witnesses. Thus a death sentence can never be above controversies. Some murders are committed under ideological influences and it will be quite unjust to punish such a person with capital punishment.
Islam and Capital Punishment.
Islam does not approve of any life being taken without any just cause or very valid ground. The Qur'an says in verse 5:32 "We prescribed for the Children of Israel that whoever kills a person, unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he had killed all human beings. And whosoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved the lives of all human beings. This is very strong statement about the value of human life. Islam would not approve of any life being taken as life is creation of Allah and representative of all living beings on earth. Life is creation of Allah and Qur'an being word of Allah is very respectful of life. Killing any person unjustly is, in the eyes of Allah, killing entire humanity and saving one life is, in the eyes of Allah, saving of entire humanity.
Some people assume that Islam stands for capital punishment and quote the verse on qisas (2:178) in support of their argument. The verse is as under:
	"O ye who believe!
            The law of equality is prescribed to you
             In cases of murder;
             The free for the free,
             The slave for the slave,
             The woman for the woman.
             But if any remission
             Is made by the brother
            Of the slain, then grant 
            Any reasonable demand,
            Compensate him
            With handsome gratitude,
             This is concession
             And a Mercy
            From your Lord
            After this, whoever 
            Exceedes the limits
            Shall be in grave penalty."
The whole spirit of this verse is not of killing the killer but to pardon him or to reduce the penalty, which is described as takhfif min rabbikum (i.e. reduction or remission from the Merciful Lord). Though the earlier part of the verse appears to justify killing in retaliation but it is not the spirit of the verse. Abdullah Yusuf Ali whose translation is quoted above also writes in the footnote, "Note first that this verse and the next make it clear that Islam has much mitigated the horrors of the pre-Islamic custom of retaliation. In order to meet the strict claims of justice, equality is prescribed, with a strong recommendation for mercy and forgiveness."
He further adds to strengthen his argument that "to translate qisas, therefore, by retaliation, is I think incorrect. The Latin legal term Lex Talionis may come near it, but even that is modified here. In any case it is best to avoid technical terms for things that are very different. "Retaliation" in English has a wider meaning equivalent almost to returning evil for evil, and would more fitly apply to the blood feuds of the Days of ignorance. Islam says: if you must take a life for life, at least there should be some measure of equality in it; the killing of the slave of a tribe should not involve a blood feud where many free men would be killed; but the law of mercy, where it can be obtained by consent, with reasonable compensation, would be better."
Thus it will be seen from above that firstly, the Qur'an is dealing with very complex pre-Islamic situation in which ruthless blood feud went on for generations involving endless bloodshed of hundreds of innocent people. The Qur'an, in such situations, applies the law of equality (not of retaliation as explained by Abdullah Yusuf Ali) to minimise bloodshed. Secondly, the Qur'an, being a divinely revealed Book from the Merciful Lord, transcends prevailing norms and gives us the concept of remission and compensation. Islam, while dealing with the given situation, also desired to equip humanity with new morality for emergence of new human person. This morality was based not on the old concept of retaliation but on the new concept of mercy and compassion, the core values of the new morality.
But it is also to be borne in mind that howsoever great the new morality and ethical values the given social context cannot be ignored altogether. The idea is to carry the people embedded in old traditions with new morality and to influence them at deeper level. At times this can be done only by creative blend of the given and transcendent in a way that transcendent emerges as the new ethical nor and the given fades out slowly. But those who do not absorb the true spirit of the Qur'an insist literally on certain words of the scripture and refuse to see the real import of new and transcendent morality. They insist on words like qisas (law of equality or retaliation as translated by some others) and want to kill the murderer in retaliation as the proper Islamic punishment. They forget that it is the spirit of new morality imparted by the Qur'an which is far more important than certain concessions to the given situation.
The Qur'an is basically against executing any human being in ideal circumstances. It also warns believers not to kill any other believer except by mistake. Thus we read in verse 4:92 as under:
	Never should a believer kill a believer;
	But (if it so happens) by mistake,
	(Compensation is due);
	If one so kills a believer,
	It is ordained that he
	Should free a believing slave,
	And pay compensation
	To the deceased's family,
	Unless they remit it freely.
	If the deceased belonged 
	To a people at war with you,
	And he was a Believer,
	The freeing of a believing slave
	(Is enough). If he belonged
	To a people with who
	Ye have a treaty of mutual
	Alliance, compensation should
	Be paid to his family,
	And a believing slave be freed.
	For those who find this 
	Beyond their means, (is prescribed)
	A fast for two months
	Running; for Allah hath
	All knowledge and all wisdom.
Thus it will be seen that Qur'an warns against killing any believer and if it takes place by mistake or accidentally the killer should normally free a slave and compensate the family of the one killed by mistake. Thus the Qur'an fulfils two objectives together: getting slaves freed and accord compensation to the family of deceased. And if the person killed belongs to those at war with the killer, the family of the killed may not be compensated but a slave ought to be freed in any case. And where compensation is to be paid and the killer has no means at his command he should fast for two months continuously to purify himself. Thus the objective is to reform the killer.
However, if a person kills anyone deliberately even then the Qur'an does not talk of awarding death punishment. It says in 4:93:
	If a man kills a believer
	Intentionally, his recompense
	Is Hell, to abide therein
	(Forever); and the wrath
	And the curse of Allah
	Are upon him, and
	A dreadful penalty
	Is prepared for him.
If a man kills some one intentionally it is Allah who will punish him and his recompense will be hell in which he will abide forever. Even in such cases one should not sentence the killer to death. Since the Qur'an is talking here of the punishment in hereafter it does not mean that human beings, in order to meet the requirements of given situatio, cannot make laws to punish a person in this world too. Either one can be imprisoned or some similar physical punishment could be given. However, one should not take life, which is sacred and has been created by Allah.
The Qur'an has prescribed rigorous standard of justice and it is quite possible that despite scrupulous intentions one may not be able to fulfil the rigorous standard of justice and may sentence a person to death this snuffing out life which is creation of Allah. It is quite obvious that it is very difficult to get foolproof witnesses in human situations. The Qur'an also lays down rigorous standards for giving witness. If one does not bring forth witnesses after making accusation such persons are liars unto Allah (see 24:13). And obviously the witnesses should be quite truthful.
The Qur'an lays down for witnesses that:
	O ye who believe!
	Stand out firmly
	For justice, as witnesses
	To Allah, even as against
	Yourselves, or your parents,
	Or your kin, and whether
	It be (against) rich or poor;
	For Allah can best protect both,
	Follow not the lusts
	(of your hearts), lest ye
	Swerve, and if ye
	Distort (justice) or decline
	To do justice, verily
 	Allah is well acquainted
	With all that ye do.
The Qur'anic standard of justice is so rigorous that one should stand witness truthfully even if it goes against oneself, against ones parents and against ones kin and should not swerve from the path of truth even while giving witness against rich or poor.
This assertion of being truthful witnesses is again repeated in the verse 5:8 when the Qur'an says:
O ye who believe!
Stand out firmly
For Allah, as witnesses
To fair dealing, and let not
The hatred of others
To you make you swerve
To wrong and depart from
Justice. Be just: that is
Next to Piety: and fear Allah
For Allah is well acquainted
With all that ye do.
Unless murder trial is based on such truthful witnesses as laid down in two above verses it cannot be said to be a just and fair trial. It is well known that hardly any trial in our courts will come up to such rigorous standards of testimony and truth. In many cases the prosecutors that is the police themselves are known to fabricate charges against the accused. Even if the trials are based on proper charges delays in trial vitiate the trial. The witnesses produced may forget the details or even the main points in trial and such trial can never be fair and reasonable.
Also, in most of the cases death sentences are given to the poor. There are hardly any cases in which a rich and powerful is condemned to be hanged. Despite the Qur'an's warning not to be swayed by any other considerations except that of truth there is hardly any believer who measures up to the Qur'anic standard. And if a person against whom testimony is being given happens to be poor considerations of truth may hardly matter. It also happens that to save rich, poor may be made a sacrificial goat by producing false witnesses. It can happen in case of personal vendetta also.
Of course here we are referring to cases of biases or personal vendetta or power of the powerful. What if a case is based on caste iron proof and the murderer also happens to be a hardened criminal who has committed murder in a well-planned manner? And such cases may not be rare in our world today. There are Mafia dons in most advanced countries who kill innocent people for money and accumulate great deal of wealth. Should such people not be hanged? Firstly such people are hardly ever caught and even if caught it is difficult to prove charges against them as they never commit murder themselves but employ someone else to do the dirty work. Secondly they terrorise the witnesses and vitiate the whole process of justice and it becomes impossible to prove anything with certainty.
But again the argument even if theoretically, may be made that what if such a criminal is caught and case against him is proved beyond any measure of doubt? Should he be hanged? There is doctrine of awarding death sentence in rarest of the rare cases. Should that doctrine be employed in such cases? The answer should be no. For, if the purpose of death sentence is to create fear in the minds of such people it will be a singular failure. Such cases are after all rare and in most of the cases such criminals go Scot free and all other such criminals will think that cases against them will be difficult to prove and hence such death sentence will fail to achieve its purpose any way. Instead if all the properties of such a gangster is confiscated (and such gangsters are known to collect great deal of illegitimate wealth) and distributed among the bereaved of those killed, may serve more exemplary sentence. The criminal himself could be sentenced to hard labour for life and an attempt may be made to reform him. Who knows he might be reformed. The ultimate goal of law should be to reform even hardened criminals and make them useful members of society again. It would be more in keeping with the Mercy of Allah and His Wisdom than killing a person. The ultimate goal of the Qur'an also is to enforce good and forbid evil from the society. There are numerous verses to this effect in the Holy Qur'an. If we want to achieve this goal prisons should be converted into reformatories so that criminals should also be made into useful and law abiding citizens. By hanging a few poor and weak persons we are not going to achieve anything.
I am quite aware of the concept of the hudud punishment in Shari'ah. One may argue that how one can go beyond these hudud punishments? It should be remembered that the shari'ah laws are also based on the customary law (adat) of the society. However, as pointed out by Shah Waliyullah also in his magnum opus Hujjat Allahil Balighah that customary law of one society or one generation should not be imposed on other society and other generation. The law in such matters should evolve with the society and changing times. The ultimate goal of the law should be to produce human beings of high moral character and to remove evil from the society. In Qur'anic words ma'ruf (good) should be spread and munkar (evil) should be forbidden form the society. The laws are means to achieve this moral goal. It is final goal which is more important than the law itself.
According to the Qur'an all human beings have been created honourable and in the best of mould (see 17:70 and 4:95). The human persons are fragile and often slip into the category of lowest of the low but than it is for guides and reformers to restore their character and bring them back to the best of the mould. It cannot be done through punishments alone. Punishments can serve very limited purpose and in some immediate cases. The ultimate goal should be to reform a person through proper guidance and through love and wisdom. Apart from justice love, mercy and wisdom are ultimate values of the Qur'an and these values should inspire us in making our laws also. We should also keep in mind that the poor and weaker sections of the society should not become victims of our laws which is what is happening in our modern capitalist society. The powerful use the law only to victimise the poor and helpless. It is defeating the very purpose of law. Death sentence too is used against such vulnerable section of society. The powerful anyway evade it.
We should, therefore, remove this curse from the society and save thousands of helpless people from gallows who often die for no fault of theirs. They deserve mercy, more than others and reformation would help them immensely. It is society, which makes criminal out of them by depriving them of basic needs of life and it is for the guardians of society to see that they are restored as useful citizens of the country. When a child stole some fruits from the orchard of his master and this was reported to the holy Prophet, he, rather than punishing the child for stealing, required his master to educate the child properly and meet his basic needs to make him a useful human being. Is this not the good example for being adopted to combat crime in the society?
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Moratorium on Capital Punishment
Dr Tariq Ramadan
Dr Tariq Ramadan is currently a Professor of Islamic Studies at Oxford University. His website is www.tariqramadan.com

Dr Tariq Ramadan explains the misunderstanding many Muslims have had about the moratorium he has called against capital punishment. His argument begins with the injustice in which these punishments are being dealt.

The reasons for capital punishment in Islam

Praise be to Allaah. 

Capital punishment applies in the case of a person who meets any of the following conditions: 

1 – The apostate. The apostate is one who disbelieves after being a Muslim, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Whoever changes his religion, execute him.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 6524. 

2 – The married adulterer. The punishment in this case is to be stoned to death. 

Al-muhsan or the married person here means one who got married and had intercourse with his wife in the vagina, in a legitimate marriage in which both parties are free, of sound mind and adults. If a married man or woman commits adultery, then they are to be stoned to death, because the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Learn from me. Allaah has given them a way out. If an unmarried person commits fornication with an unmarried person, (the punishment is) one hundred lashes and exile for one year. If a married person commits adultery with a married person, (the punishment is) one hundred lashes and stoning.” (Narrated by Muslim, 1690). 

And al-Bukhaari (2725) and Muslim (1698) narrated from Abu Hurayrah and Zayd ibn Khaalid al-Juhani (may Allaah be pleased with them) that they said: “Two men from among the Bedouin came to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, I adjure you by Allaah to judge me according to the Book of Allaah.’ The other disputant – who was smarter – said: ‘Yes, judge between us according to the Book of Allaah and give me permission to speak first.’ 

The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, ‘Speak.’ 

He said, ‘My son was employed by this man, and he committed adultery with his wife. I was told that the punishment for my son would be stoning, but that he could be ransomed for one hundred sheep and their offspring. I asked the people of knowledge and they told me that the punishment for my son would be one hundred lashes and exile for one year, and that this woman would be stoned.’ 

The Messenger of Allaah (S) said: ‘By the One in Whose hand is my soul, I will judge between you according to the Book of Allaah. The offspring and sheep will be returned (i.e., there is no ransom), and your son is to be given one hundred lashes and exiled for one year. O Unays [who was one of the Sahaabah], go tomorrow to that woman and if she admits (this crime) then stone her.’ So he went to her the next day and she admitted it, and the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) issued orders that she be stoned. 

3 – The murderer (one who kills deliberately). He is to be killed in retaliation (qisaas) unless the victim’s next of kin let him off or agree to accept the diyah (blood money), because Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): 

“O you who believe! Al-Qisaas (the Law of Equality in punishment) is prescribed for you in case of murder: the free for the free, the slave for the slave, and the female for the female. But if the killer is forgiven by the brother (or the relatives) of the killed against blood money, then adhering to it with fairness and payment of the blood money to the heir should be made in fairness. This is an alleviation and a mercy from your Lord. So after this whoever transgresses the limits (i.e. kills the killer after taking the blood money), he shall have a painful torment”

[al-Baqarah 2:178] 

“And there is (a saving of) life for you in Al-Qisaas (the Law of Equality in punishment), O men of understanding, that you may become Al-Muttaqoon (the pious)”

[al-Baqarah 2:179] 

And the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “It is not permissible (to shed) the blood of a Muslim who bears witness that there is no god but Allaah and that I am the Messenger of Allaah, except in three cases: a married adulterer, a soul for a soul, or one who leaves the religion and splits from the jamaa’ah.” 

Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 6484; Muslim, 1676). 

4 – Bandits, i.e., al-muhaarib, the one who wages war against Allaah and His Messenger. Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning): 

“The recompense of those who wage war against Allaah and His Messenger and do mischief in the land is only that they shall be killed or crucified or their hands and their feet be cut off from opposite sides, or be exiled from the land. That is their disgrace in this world, and a great torment is theirs in the Hereafter”

[al-Maa'idah 5:33] 

5 – Spies. The spy is the one who spies on the Muslims and transmits information to their enemies. 

The evidence for that is the report narrated by al-Bukhaari (3007) and Muslim (2494) which says that Haatib ibn Abi Balta’ah wrote to some of the mushrikeen in Makkah telling them some information about the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “O Haatib, what is this?” He said, “O Messenger of Allaah, do not hasten to judge me. I was a man closely connected to Quraysh, but I did not belong to this tribe, while the other Muhaajireen with you had their relatives in Makkah who would protect their families and property. So I wanted to make up for my lack of blood ties to them by doing them a favor so that they might protect my family. I did not do this because of disbelief or apostasy nor out of preferring kufr (disbelief) to Islam.” The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, “He has told you the truth.” ‘Umar said, “O Messenger of Allaah! Let me chop off the head of this hypocrite!” The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “He was present at the battle of Badr, and you do not know, perhaps Allaah looked at the people of Badr and said, ‘Do whatever you like, for I have forgiven you.’” 

The point in this hadeeth is that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) agreed with ‘Umar that Haatib deserved to be executed for this action, but the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) told him that there was a reason why he should not be killed, which is that he was one of those who was present at the battle of Badr. 

Ibn al-Qayyim said in Zaad al-Ma’aad (2/115) concerning the hadeeth of Haatib ibn Abi Balta’ah: 

This was quoted as evidence by those who do not think that the Muslim spy should be killed, such as al-Shaafa’i, Ahmad and Abu Haneefah (may Allaah have mercy on them). And it was quoted as evidence by those who think that the spy should be killed, such as Maalik and Ibn ‘Aqeel among the companions of Ahmad, and others. They said: This is because the reason for not killing him was that he had been present at Badr. If being Muslim was the reason for not killing him, he would not have given a reason that is more specific, which is the fact that he had been present at Badr.

And he said elsewhere in Zaad al-Ma’aad (3/422): 

The correct view is that execution of a spy depends on the opinion of the ruler; if executing him is in the Muslims’ interests, he should be executed, but if letting him live serves a greater interest, then he should be allowed to live. And Allaah knows best. 

The above also includes the one who does not pray, the one who practices witchcraft, and the heretic, because they come under the heading of “the one who leaves his religion and splits from the jamaa’ah.” 

With regard to the conditions of implementing this punishment, there are many. Each crime has its own specific conditions, details of which may be found in the books of fiqh. 

The wisdom behind executing the apostate and the married adulterer

With regard to The wisdom behind that, “However, I find it difficult to comprehend how a man can be sentenced to death for speaking. I would have thought that we as humans do not have that right to make those decisions, only god can” – what you say is correct, because no-one has the right to condemn another person to death without evidence from the Book of Allaah and the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him). 

The ruling of execution because of a word that somebody utters is what the Muslim scholars call al-riddah (apostasy). What is apostasy and what constitutes apostasy? What is the ruling on the apostate (al-murtadd)? 

1 – Riddah (apostasy) refers to when a Muslim becomes a disbeliever by saying a clear statement to that effect, or by uttering words which imply that (i.e., which imply kufr or disbelief), or he does something that implies that (i.e., an action which implies kufr or disbelief). 

2 – What constitutes apostasy 

The matters which constitute apostasy are divided into four categories: 

(a) Apostasy in beliefs, such as associating others with Allaah, denying Him, or denying an attribute which is proven to be one of His attributes, or by affirming that Allaah has a son. Whoever believes that is an apostate and a disbeliever.

(b) Apostasy in words, such as insulting Allaah or the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him).

(c) Apostasy in actions, such as throwing the Qur’an into a filthy place, because doing that shows disrespect towards the words of Allaah, so it is a sign that one does not believe. Other such actions include prostrating to an idol or to the sun or moon.

(d) Apostasy by omission, such as not doing any of the rituals of Islam, or turning away from following it altogether. 

3 – What is the ruling on the apostate? 

If a Muslim apostatizes and meets the conditions of apostasy – i.e., he is of sound mind, an adult and does that of his own free will – then his blood may be shed with impunity. He is to be executed by the Muslim ruler or by his deputy – such as the qaadi or judge, and he is not to not be washed (after death, in preparation for burial), the funeral prayer is not to be offered for him and he is not to be buried with the Muslims. 

The evidence that the apostate is to be executed is the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him): “Whoever changes his religion, execute him.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 2794). What is meant by religion here is Islam (i.e., whoever changes from Islam to another religion). 

The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “It is not permissible to shed the blood of a Muslim who bears witness that there is no god except Allaah and that I am His Messenger, except in one of three cases: a soul for a soul (i.e., in the case of murder); a married man who commits adultery; and one who leaves his religion and splits form the jamaa’ah (main group of Muslims).” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 6878; Muslim, 1676) 

See al-Mawsoo’ah al-Fiqhiyyah, 22/180. 

Thus it will be clear to you that execution of the apostate is something that is commanded by Allaah, when he commanded us to obey the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him), as He says (interpretation of the meaning): 

“O you who believe! Obey Allaah and obey the Messenger (Muhammad), and those of you (Muslims) who are in authority”

[al-Nisa’ 4:59] 

And the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) has commanded us to execute the apostate as in the hadeeth quoted above: “Whoever changes his religion, execute him.” 

It may need some time for you to be convinced about this matter, and for you to think about it. Perhaps you think that if a person follows the truth and enters into it and embraces the one true religion which Allaah has enjoined, then we allow him to leave it quite easily whenever he wants and to utter the words of kufr (disbelief) that put him outside of Islam, so he can reject Allaah, His Messenger, His Books and His religion, and there is no punishment as deterrent, how will that affect him and others who enter the religion? 

Do you not see that this would make the one true religion, that everyone should follow, like a shop or store which a person can enter when he wants and leave when he wants, and it may encourage others to forsake the truth. 

Moreover, this is not someone who has never known the truth and practiced it and worshipped in accordance with it; rather this is a person who has known the truth, and practiced the religion and done the rituals of worship, so the punishment is no greater than he deserves. Moreover, such strong rulings as this are only applied to such a person whose life is no longer considered to be useful, because he knew the truth and followed the religion, then he left it and forsook it. What soul can be more evil than the soul of such a person? 

In conclusion, the answer is that Allaah is the One Who revealed this religion and enjoined it. He is the One Who ruled that the one who enters it and then leaves it is to be executed. This ruling does not come from the Muslims’ ideas or suggestions. As this is the case, then we must follow the ruling of Allaah so long as we are content to accept Him as our Lord and God.

by Abu Sarah, Feb 13, 2010 at 4:26 PM

Is death penalty wrong according to the Qur'an ? 
Sheikh Abdur Raheem Green
From the Q&A-Session of the lecture ''Islam - The True Religion of God?'' 
at Peace Conference Scandinavia 2010.


Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Hanson

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