Islamic Concepts and Beliefs Islamic Practices

The Philosophy of Punishments in Islam

…these are the limits fixed by Allah, so approach them not. Thus, does Allah make His commandments clear to men so that they may become secure against evil. (Ch.2:V.188)

The world today presents a horrific scenario of crime, violence, killing and a determined attempt to destroy the very pillars of social order which sustain peace, tolerance, harmony and human dignity. The lives of millions around the world have been ruined and are going through an unbearable syndrome of traumatic suffering and ruthless devastation. The misuse of modern technology has given rise to a global institution of a criminal order which is the most critical challenge to the world today.

The world is dearly searching for ways to combat, control and check the raging storm of crime, and that makes it all the more pertinent to study the Philosophy of Punishments in Islam.

According to Muslim perception, Islam is not only a religion but also a civilisation and social order based upon revealed principles. Islam stands out distinctly among the religions of the world in that its punishment and retribution laws are applied under exclusive rules and regulations, dealing with matters related to obligations to Allah and obligations to human kind.

Under no circumstances has man the right to punish anyone for non-compliance with the obligations to Allah. So as a result of this distinction, Islam totally liberated man’s obligations to worship from human intervention and inter-ference.

God Almighty considers His right to punish as He wills offenders of associating partners to Him, apostasy, blasphemy, opposing Him and His Messenger(saw), maligning Him and His Messenger(saw) and obstructing His Messenger(saw) in his prayer and in his mission. Because of the gravity and perfidy of these offences, God Almighty does not transfer the right of dispensing justice to such offenders to anyone – not even to His most beloved of Prophets. Instead, He tells the Holy Prophet(saw), ‘forgive them and turn away from them’. It is because God Almighty considers the offences to be so grave that no punishment in this world can do justice to the gravity of the offences. God Almighty has prepared an abasing punishment for such people in the Hereafter as God Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an:

on the Day of Resurrection, He will disgrace them…So enter the gates of Hell to abide therein. Evil, indeed is the abode of the proud. (Ch.16:Vs.28-30)

Before I embark upon the philosophy of punishments in Islam within the domain of human intervention, it may be useful to briefly state the contemporary thought on this subject. Theories of punishment can be divided into two general philosophies: utilitarian and retributive. The utilitarian theory of punishment seeks to punish offenders to discourage, or ‘deter’, future wrongdoing. The retributive theory seeks to punish offenders because they deserve to be punished.

Under the deterrent philosophy, punishment should prevent other people from committing criminal acts. The punishment serves as an example to the rest of the society, and it puts others on notice that criminal behaviour will be punished.

The other major rationale for punishment is denunciation. Under the denunciation theory, punishment should be an expression of societal condem-nation.

Our beloved Holy Prophet of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad(saw), came as a mercy for all mankind, Rahmat-ul-Lil ‘Alamin! Allah revealed to him the complete Book, the Holy Qur’an – the guidance for all mankind for all times to come, which remains untarnished, unchanged and guarded by Divine decree.

In the Holy Qur’an, Allah Almighty has revealed a complete code of life – a law to govern all dimensions of human life. This in Islam is known as ‘Shariah’ and there can be nothing else as law in Islam.

Shariah’ is based on a simple principle. What is right must be done and what is normally wrong must not be done. It is therefore important to correctly define what is right and what is wrong. These are important legal questions; and who can answer them? Certainly not man, say the Muslim legislators. We have the Holy Qur’an, which is the very word of God. Supplementary to it, we have Hadith, which are Traditions of the Holy Prophet(saw) of Islam – the records of his actions and his sayings, from which we must derive help in arriving at legal decisions. If, in the unlikely event, there is nothing either in the Holy Qur’an or in the Hadith to answer the particular question before us, we have to follow the dictates of reason in accordance with certain definitive principles.

Explaining this, the Promised Messiah(as) says:

‘In the Holy Qur’an the directives about civil, criminal and revenue matters fall into two categories. One category of those directives is aimed at detailing punish-ment or procedure for dispensing justice. The second category is of directives which lay down only formulae or ‘approach to be used’ in time of court trial so that crime and punishment fit each other in the best possible manner. In such directives, rigid punishment is not mentioned for a specific crime. It lays down guiding rules according to which later interpreters of law are to carry out the administration of law whenever new situations arise. For example, in the Holy Qur’an, at one place it has been said: ‘tooth for a tooth; an eye for an eye.’ It is a statement of detail. In another place, there is a comprehensive formula that means: And the recompense of an injury is an injury the like thereof. So when we consider this formula we realise that it is a statement that shows how this rule is extended to all situations. There can be peculiar circumstance when a rigid rule cannot be applied. For example, if a man who breaks another person’s tooth does not himself have any teeth. Either he is so old that he has lost his own teeth, or due to some other reason he has lost his own teeth. We cannot apply the punishment ‘tooth for a tooth’ in such an unusual case because the guilty person does not possess any teeth.

Similarly, if a blind man gouges out the eye of another person, we cannot take out the eye of the guilty one because he is devoid of eyes. In short, to tackle even such rare situations the Holy Qur’an has laid down formulae which are com-prehensive. The Holy Qur’an did not stop there, but it actively advised Muslim interpreters of law to use such formulae for inductions, deductions and the exercise of their mental faculties while considering legal matters.’ (Kitabul Bariyya, p87)

With an understanding of the nature and source of Islamic law, we should know the definition of crimes and their categories under Islamic law.

The Holy Qur’an provides specific punishments for only four offences: adultery, slandering, murder and theft.

These offences appear to have been selected to indicate that life, family institution, property, honour and social order have to be protected.

Hadhrat Abu Hurairah(ra) narrates that the Holy Prophet(saw) said, three things of a Muslim are unlawful for another Muslim: his blood, his honour and his wealth.

The Muslim legislators and jurists have defined crime as going against or beyond the commands and prohibitions laid down in the Holy Qur’an, in other words, crossing the ‘hadd’, which is Arabic for the limits or the bounds fixed by God. All such crimes, since they are violations of the rules made by God Almighty, are considered crimes against religion.

A cursory glance is enough to realise the horrific, extensive and extremely profound impact these crimes have upon society and as a result of not taking appropriate measures to check and prevent them, society is ruined and destroyed. In fact, these are the four crimes which have dominated society and are responsible for most of the suffering and misery that is witnessed in the world today.

In Islamic law, offences are divided into two major groups: Firstly, crimes for which ‘hadd’ punishments ordained by God are given, that is, adultery, murder, slandering and theft.

Secondly, other crimes such as homicide, assault and damage to property etcetera are considered offences, punishments for which include retaliation, expiation and disciplinary action.

Having warned against the evil tendencies, Islam does not remain content with that. It also prescribes deterrent laws in conformity with the dictates of reason, justice and humanity. However, Islam also provides guidelines on how to determine criminal liability. For example, all acts are judged by their motives and intentions (Bukhari).

The Holy Qur’an uses the word ‘kasab’ for commission of crime, which implies a deliberate effort. If there is no intention to violate or exceed the limits then there is no criminal liability and the act is pardonable. Any act carried out in ignorance and without adequate knowledge deserves pardon.

Hadrat ‘A’ishah(ra) narrates that the Holy Prophet(saw) said: Try as far as possible to save a Muslim from punishment. If there can be a way to save him, then think of settling the matter. For the Imam to make a mistake in forgiving and acquitting is better than making a mistake in giving punishment (Tirmidhi Abwab Al-Hudood).

God Almighty says in The Holy Qur’an:

Verily, Allah undertakes to accept the repentance of only those who do evil ignorantly and then repent soon after. These are they to whom Allah turns with mercy; and Allah is All-Knowing, Wise.(Ch.4:V.18)

God Almighty has also stated that nobody shall be punished for the act of another and punishments laid out in Islam are proportionate to the crime.

In The Holy Qur’an God says:

Whoso does a good deed shall have ten times as much; but he who does an evil deed, shall have only a like reward; and they shall not be wronged. (Ch.6:V.161)

The Holy Qur’an thus informs us of the basic goodness of man. It tells us that man has a choice and shall duly be held liable for his actions. It then proceeds to warn us that we should not approach evil, but if we fall onto the path of destruction then Islam sets out clear guidelines on punishment, but before imposing penalty it guides us how to determine liability.

Hadrat Ibn ‘Abbas(ra) narrates that the Holy Prophet(saw) said: stop the enforcement of ‘hudood’ (limits) because of doubts. That is, do not make haste in issuing a ‘hadd’ punishment of anyone. Rather, if there is a possibility of doubt, make it a base for pardon.

To prevent crime, Islam aims at eliminating the conditions that produce it. It seeks to remove the very root-cause of all crime by working a complete moral reformation in man. It blocks all approaches to crime. The phrase used in the Holy Qur’an is, do not go near the evil; do not go near the limits set by Allah.

Thus, Islam attempts to stop crime before it occurs by removing the conditions and inclinations and closes all approaches to the path of crime.

Hadrat Abu Hurairah(ra) narrates that the Holy Prophet(saw) asked: “Do you know who is poor?” We submitted, “the one who has no money and no possessions”. The Prophet(saw) said, ‘the poor among my people are the one who on the Day of Judgment will come with good deeds of Salat, fasting and Zakat but had foul mouthed someone or uttered slander about someone, or squandered some-one’s wealth, or murdered and assaulted some innocent person. Therefore, his good deeds will be distributed amongst his victims and the burden of their sins will be saddled on him and thus he will be committed to hell instead of paradise. Such a person is poor indeed!’  (Muslim Kitab al-Birri wal-Silah)

Thus Islam’s highest priority is building and sustaining a virtuous society with excellent morals.

Chastity as moral virtue holds a very high place in the code of Islamic laws that govern relations between sexes. Islam views with extreme disapprobation the slightest breach of these laws. It is Islam’s very great sensitiveness about chastity that is reflected in the punishment prescribed for adultery or fornication.

God Almighty says in The Holy Qur’an:

And come not near unto adultery; surely, it is a foul thing and an evil way. (Ch.17:V.33)

The unimaginable suffering and malignancy that arises out of the act of adultery makes a long catalogue. This unrestrained and wrong means of reproduction causes immense trauma, unrest and both social and psychological disarray. Today, in the world, the ruin of families on a large scale, the weakening of family connections, the collapse of pure love and bond between a brother and a sister, mother and son, father and child; the rampant selfishness and jealousy, the growing lack of loyalty and trust in relationships, the growing pandemic of divorces and the sense of being rejected; moreover the spread of horrific venereal diseases such as AIDS which even for the entire developed nations of the world is becoming hard to regress, can be blamed on this one offence of adultery.

Islam regards adultery as one of the most heinous of all social crimes and looks upon sexual chastity of a man or a woman as one of his or her most precious possessions. For the establishment of the kingdom of God, Islam strongly condemns this most deadly of all social crimes, which if not checked and suppressed, can bring about total disintegration and destruction of society. The Qur’an seeks to close all those avenues through which this disease finds its way among a people and severely punishes the act of adultery and condemns the guilty parties as social pariahs.

As far as the nature of punishment is concerned, it is necessary to explain that there is no base for stoning to death. It was imposed in exceptional circumstances fol-lowing the Jewish practice at a time when a clear directive regarding this had not been revealed in the Holy Qur’an. As far as the punishment in Islam is concerned regarding adultery, it is a hundred stripes, not stoning to death.

The Holy Qur’an says:

The adulteress and the adulterer (or the fornicatress and the fornicator), flog each one of them with a hundred stripes. (Ch.24:V.3)

Flogging and not stoning to death is therefore the punishment prescribed by Islam for adultery or fornication. Nowhere in the Holy Qur’an has stoning to death been laid down as punishment of adultery and for that matter for any other crime, however serious. The misconception seems to be due to a few cases recorded in the Hadith (Traditions) when married persons guilty of adultery were stoned to death by the order of the Holy Prophet(saw). One of these few cases was that of a Jew and a Jewess who were stoned to death in accordance with the Mosaic Law (Bukhari).

It was invariably the Holy Prophet(saw)’s practice that he abided by the law of the Torah in deciding cases until a new Commandment was revealed to him.

It is mentioned in the Bible:

they say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned.’ (John, Ch.8:Vs.4-5)

The misconception has persisted among certain schools of Muslim religious thought that flogging is a punishment for unmarried persons only and that punishments for married adulterer and adulteress is stoning to death.

In principle and sensibly in accordance with this directive, Jesus(as) must be followed faithfully to this day. It is, however, another matter that it is not adhered. In light of this explanation, we are witness to an interesting scenario in this age, where the Jewish and Christian states, against their religious teachings, do not stone the adulterers to death, but some Muslim states, in contrast to the teaching of Islam, impose the punishment of stoning to death for adultery.

There is another outstanding difference between the punish-ments imposed by Islam and by other religions. It is that the harsher the punishment imposed by Islam, in the same tone, it imposes vigorous preventive measures to be taken to save people from committing that offence and at the same time very strict rules for the conviction of an offender so that no innocent is convicted. In the case of adultery, the strict condition of four witnesses who actually watched the act is to ensure that there is absolutely not an iota of doubt in the allegation. Moreover, the integrity and the credibility of the witnesses is of utmost importance, not only that the witnesses have a track record of being truthful but they should have a reputation of being civilised and respectable. All these measures are to guarantee that no one innocent of crime is victimised. Moreover the Islamic laws pertaining to witnesses are so tough that there is no example of it in any other witness rules and regulations in the world.

Hadrat ‘A‘ishah(ra) narrates that the Holy Prophet(saw) said: the witness of a man or a woman who is guilty of breach of trust is invalid, as is that of the man and the woman who have received ‘hadd’ punishment, and the one who is malicious and who has been a false witness in the past, and the one who is dependent upon those for whom he is standing as a witness and a person who could be alleged to be a relative or an heir of the one he is giving witness for (Tirmidhi Kitabul Shahadah).

So, the strict preventive measures that Islam has provided for the termination of crime are to ensure the establishment and sustenance of a pure social environment. Moreover, even after the offences, the precautions Islam has stipulated are such that unless someone has turned totally shameless and daring and has become a danger to the society, the chances of punishment under the Islamic law would be uncommon. Islam has taken every possible step to make sure that the occasions demanding punishment are in the least. But when punishment is meted out it should be of such severity that it discourages the future recom-mitment of the offence in the society.

All this adequately focuses light on the philosophy of the punitive system in Islam. It also makes it abundantly clear that the penal code Islam has adopted is such that a better one than that cannot be devised.

The other social evil, second to adultery in heinousness, and which eats into the vitals of human society, is the slandering of innocent people. Islam also views with extreme disfavour this social evil which has become so common in the so-called civilised modern society, and severely punishes the accusers.

God Almighty says:

And those who calumniate chaste woman but bring not four witnesses – flog them with eighty stripes, and never admit their evidence thereafter, and it is they that are transgressors… (Ch.24:V.5)

Here, the Holy Qur’an mentions three forms of punishment in an ascending order which are to be meted out to a slanderer:

a. The physical punishment of scourging,
b. The disgrace of being branded as a perjurer and a liar which invalidates his evidence
c. The spiritual stigma of being adjudged as a transgressor.

In case the accuser cannot produce the necessary evidence in support of his charge, the charge would be considered as false and the accuser would render himself liable to the prescribed punishment. Whatever the facts of the case, the woman with whom adultery is alleged to have been committed will be held innocent as long as the required evidence is not produced. The law, in fact, is intended to suppress with a strong hand the offence of slandering and scandal-mon-gering. The commandment con-tained in the Holy Qur’an covers both men and women without any distinction between the two sexes.

The third offence set out in the Holy Qur’an is murder. Allah says:

O ye who believe, equitable retaliation in the matter of the slain is prescribed for you: the free man for the free man, and the slave for the slave, and the female for the female. But if one is granted any remission by one’s brother, then pursuing the matter for the realisation of the blood money shall be done with fairness and the murderer shall pay him the blood money in a handsome man-ner. This is an alleviation from your Lord and a mercy. And whoso transgresses thereafter, for him there shall be a grievous punishment. (Ch.2:V.179)

This verse comprises a very important principle of civil law, that is, equality of man and necessity of awarding proportionate punishment to all offenders without distinction. Unless an offender is forgiven by the relatives of his victim under circumstances that are expected to lead to improvement and better-ment of conditions, punish-ment for the slain as prescribed is obligatory. The authorities res-ponsible for law and order are bound to punish the offender according to the requirements of law, having no right to pardon him of their own accord. On the other hand, the heirs of the murdered person are not entitled to take the law into their own hands and inflict the punishment on the guilty person themselves.

The verse makes no distinction between different classes of persons in connection with the law of retaliation. The punishment applies to all offenders who might be guilty of murder, no matter of what rank or station in life or of what religion. Any person, irrespective of his cast or creed and irrespective of his station, must be put to death for the murder of any other person unless pardoned by the relatives of the victim and unless the pardon has the sanction of the authorities.

In fact, it is a beauty of the punitive system of Islam that it provides a moderate teaching that is pure of all extremist views. That is why there is no need for it to swing like a pendulum from one side to the other. The punishment that is enforced for murder is based on this principle, and bearing in mind every possible aspect, a moderate and balanced teaching is provided, the essence of which is that in the case of murder, the heirs of the victim have the right to have the murderer pay the blood money, and if they themselves do not forego this right then they will have the right to have capital punishment enforced.

So Islam simultaneously retains the punishment of death for murder but in some cases without depriving anyone of their right, an exceptional form of punishment has also been created. This exceptional form is also based on profound wisdom; it is possible that the heirs of the murdered victim may be entirely dependant upon the person murdered for their subsistence. In such a situation capital punishment cannot fulfil a practical basic need of the family’s welfare. Thus, for making provision of claiming ransom in lieu of capital punishment, Islam offers a practical choice to the grieved family.

Basically, Islam structures a society which is founded on the spirit of true fraternity where the blood of a Muslim is unlawful upon another Muslim. Hadrat Abu Bakr(ra) narrates that the Holy Prophet(saw) said: when two Muslims draw their swords to fight each other and one of them is murdered, then both of them, the murdered and the murderer will be shoved into fire. Hadrat Abu Bakr(ra) stated that he submitted, “O Prophet of Allah! the murderer should of course be shoved into fire, but why should the murdered person go into the fire also?” The Holy Prophet(saw) replied, “because he too yearned for the murder of his opponent.” (Bukhari Kitab Al-Diyat)

The fourth offence is that of stealing and robbery.

The punishment prescribed for theft may again appear to be too severe. However, human expe-rience shows that punishment, if it is to be deterrent, should be exemplary. God Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an:

And as for the man who steals and the woman who steals, cut off their hands in retribution of their offence as an exemplary punishment from Allah. And Allah is Mighty, Wise. (Ch.5:V.39)

It is better to be severe to one and save a thousand than to be indulgent to all and ruin many. He certainly is a good surgeon who does not hesitate to amputate a rotten limb to save the whole body.

In the early history of Islam there were extreme rare cases of cutting the hands of thieves because the punishment prescribed was a deterrent and was put in force.

We are told in a Hadith, narrated by Hadhrat ‘A’ishah (ra), that a woman from the People of Makhzoom committed theft. The Quraish, a powerful tribe of Makkah, were very embarrassed and disturbed by the incident. They wondered who could go to the Holy Prophet(saw) and report the matter. At last they resolved to send Osama bin Zaid(ra) because he was a beloved of the Holy Prophet(saw). Accordingly, Osama(ra) was prepared for the task and he went and sought forgiveness for the woman from the Holy Prophet(saw). The Prophet(saw) was very upset and said, “How dare you intercede in the matter of limits fixed by Allah?” Then the Prophet(saw) stood up and addressed: “People before you were destroyed because when a prominent and influential person committed theft he was not apprehended and when an ordinary person committed theft he was given the maximum punishment. By God, if the daughter of Muhammad commits theft, I shall cut her hand and not allow any concession at all!” (Muslim Kital Al-Hudood Ba’ab Qata Assarik).

For the punishment of cutting the hand of a thief, Islam has also laid down limits on conditions such as that the stolen goods should not be edible i.e. on which the sustenance of life depends.

It is narrated that the Holy Prophet(saw) did not impose the punishment of cutting hands on the one who had stolen fruits or some other food stuff (Tirmidhi).

Similarly, it is also noted from Hadith that during a journey if someone stole because he had finished all his money, he was also not given the punishment of cutting his hand and was given some other suitable punishment (Abu Da’ud).

The punishment of cutting the hand is not given for pilfering. If someone takes more than one’s share from a trust, he would be given an alternative punishment. Under this principle, the Holy Prophet(saw) did not order to cut the hand of a thief who stole from booty. Taking more things from what belongs to the kith and kin also excludes one from this punishment.

A minor or an insane thief is also excused this punishment, as is the one who snatches something from someone by force or steals through deception or has committed embezzlement.

To understand the philosophy of this punishment, it would be helpful to comprehend the background of the society which Islam envisages to establish. Knowledge of the financial guarantee an Islamic economic system provides to every citizen of the country is also necessary.

As far the structure of society is concerned, Islam builds it on simple living, truth, righteousness and abstinence from absurdities of life and senseless customs. Islam establishes a society which is pure of such frolics and has the least causes to tempt someone to steal. These are the aspects of the society irrespective of religion or belief that are to be observed by every subject of an Islamic State. As far as Muslims are concerned, there is emphasis on worship and purity of heart and sight, and the moral teaching provides details regarding obligations to humans. In the light of all this, if the residents of a country are truly Muslims, the thought of stealing should be unimaginable. However, it is sad that in the real situation, such a scenario is difficult to present. From an economic viewpoint, if an Islamic economic system is in force, then what chances are there for stealing to flourish? Islam is the one religion that simultaneously allows the freedom to earn wealth, without discouraging healthy competition, and also adopts such means that grossly reduce the chances of wealth accumulating in a few hands.

When we bear in mind such a social and economic background, it becomes clear that effective prohibitive measures have been imposed on the causes of stealing. In spite of this, if someone steals, he is guilty of two offences. Firstly, he does not carry out responsibility of working to support the economy of the country, and to evade that, he chooses stealing. Secondly, he deprives others in the society of their rightful possessions, thus causing economic anxiety and anguish. In these circumstances, there can be no better punishment than the one imposed by Islam, that is, the punishment of cutting the hand. Such a punishment becomes a warning indicator and a deterrent for others. It is to emphasise that a person who instead of using his God-given capabilities in a positive way has misused them deserves to be deprived of that blessing. The purpose of the hand is to produce, not to usurp the produce of others. A person who uses the hand contrary to what it is meant for is guilty and deserves that he should be deprived of that blessing.

Moreover, this punishment has a very powerful effective force for the prevention of stealing. The Islamic states where this punishment is in force show the crime of stealing is rare. Therefore, if the Islamic social and economic system is established in a country, the causes of stealing are markedly reduced. Moreover, the punishment of stealing is so wrathful that even if after months a thief is caught and punished, people far and wide receive the warning. As a sure and certain result of that, practically, the curse of stealing, if not totally wiped out, becomes very rare.

Some people react in the name of human rights react very strongly to this punishment. The fact is that such a reaction cannot be justified. It is a mere expression of sentiment that is the result of a wrong notion of mercy. In an Islamic state where such a law is enforced, even if twenty people are caught stealing during one year and their hands cut, the question arises, do these few deserve more mercy than those innocent thousands who suffer enormously at the hands of robbers and burglars every day?

Where in the absence of Islamic punishment, stealing flourishes, it stirs up agony without any apprehension. It is a well-known fact that here in the United Kingdom even if financial losses are ignored, as a result of stealing, innumerable innocent citizens suffer much distress and torment. That in itself is sufficient reason for the imposition of tough punishment to salvage human society from this dreadful crime. Without any doubt, every year as a result of robbery and burglary thousands are killed or disabled. Several faces are mutilated by the assault of thieves, eyes are lost and hands and feet are broken and many innocent citizens are compelled to live the rest of their lives with severe disability. With this horrific scenario, naturally, the question arises, whether all these innocents, enduring unprovoked suffering are not more deserving to receive mercy rather taking mercy on offenders who are responsible for spreading suffering in society and treating them softly. It can be said with absolute confidence that if the Western countries were to impose the punishment for stealing Islam has suggested a very peaceful society can come into being.

The fact is that during the last few years, the cases of theft and violent robberies are on the increase at an unprecedented pace and the situation has embedded a sense of insecurity in the hearts of many. Moreover, the cost of preventing, controlling and dealing with robbery cases is a heavy burden on the taxpayer and the losses of robbed businesses is apparently passed onto the consumer.

The philosophy of punishments in Islam indicates that Islam provides punishment only as a last resort and the purpose behind them is reform brought about through a blending of human values and justice tempered with mercy. Encouraging forgiveness where it is likely to reform and improve things and providing severe punishment where there is clear disregard and exceeding the limit of law is the crux of this system. The standard of evidence required is very strict and difficult. But once proved the offence has to be punished severely. The retaliation in case of death has been provided and in case of theft the punishment is awarded to habitual and incorrigible criminals in order to deprive them of the capacity to repeat the crime. It is not possible to fathom the wisdom of Divine commandment and comprehend their philosophy fully. But as mentioned earlier the contem-porary thought, the experience and flight of human imagination, has come to acknowledge the retributive, reformative, deterrent and preventive rationale of the Islamic punishments, which is only partly reflected in the philosophy of contemporary thought on crime and punishment.

The Promised Messiah(as) says:

‘Again there is apprehension that justice and mercy cannot both coexist in the entity of God because justice demands punishment while mercy calls for forgiveness. This is a trap in which the short-sighted Christians are caught because of lack of judgement. They do not realise that God’s justice is a kind of mercy! It is entirely for the good of human beings. For instance, if God Almighty issues an order about a murderer from the point of view of His justice that such a criminal should die, it does not benefit God in any way. He issues such an order so that mankind should not put an end to itself by killing one another. So it is God’s mercy towards mankind. God has pro-mulgated such ‘human rights’ for social peace to prevail and that one group of humans must not oppress another group and create turmoil in the world. So all the rights and punishments which are there concerning property, life and reputation are in fact mercy towards mankind.’ (Kitabul Bariyya, p73).

It would be proper to conclude by drawing attention to the fact that the four crimes that the Holy Qur’an has chosen and imposed ‘hadd’, that is limits, on them are the ones which at present are the cause of unremitting and consuming anxiety for humanity. If severe punishments are imposed on all these four offences to uproot them, the foundation for crime in every country of the world can be broken and an amazing atmos-phere of peace and security heralded. But it must be strongly emphasised that the Islamic penal code would be difficult to impose and operate outside the Islamic social and economic systems. The attempt to introduce this penal code in a non-Muslim society ignorant of Islamic values, restrictions and prohibitions, would be like attempting to grow strawberries in the desert. Even in a country or society that is predominantly Muslim, intro-ducing the Islamic penal code successfully would not be possible until that society has not within reason immersed in the spirit of Islamic morals. For example, if in an Islamic State, falsehood is rampant, and in reality most of the witnesses are liars, if the punishments of cutting hands for stealing and the punishment of a hundred stripes for adultery is imposed, it would be probable that the hands of many innocents would be cut and by giving false witness cause many pious souls to receive a hundred stripes.

Loyal and faithful following of the Holy Prophet(saw) is possible only on the condition that with vigorous effort and sacrifices, such a society should be established that truly deserves to be called an Islamic society, only then should the Islamic penal code be introduced in that society.
That is the society that was founded and inaugurated and irrigated and nurtured by the Messenger of this age, Hadrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad(as), the Promised Messiah who said:

Religion in its true sense means all those matters which are essential for completion of humanity; these matters turn away human beings from wild beings and elevate them from the level of ordinary human behaviour to a higher level where human beings utilise their intellectual and spiritual faculties to ascend to the highest level where human beings lose them-selves in the contemplation and meditation of God. These matters and these teachings are the sum and substance of true religion. (Kitabul Bariyya, p89)

The Ahmadiyya Muslim com-munity today presents to the world a pristine pure model of Islam and it is moving rapidly to encompass the entire world and that day is not far when the whole world will be enshrined by the blessings of Islam and a society will be established which will be governed by the rule of Allah’s Law to ensure peace, security, justice equity and prosperity for humanity with the extermination of criminal behaviour and enforce measures to preserve the sanctity and dignity of human life.

Expressing these aspirations, the Promised Messiah(as) said:

‘I pray continuously that all my followers may fear God Almighty and be steadfast in their prayers and prostrate themselves humbly before God with tears in their eyes in the middle of their nights and neglect not their duty to God and are not miserly and do not demean themselves in pursuit of mundane attrac-tions. I do sincerely hope that God will listen to my supplications and will reveal to me that when I pass away I shall leave behind me those who obey Him. But those whose eyes commit adultery and whose hearts are more dirty than filth and who have totally forgotten that they have to leave this world one day, I and my God are completely disgusted with them. I shall feel happy if such people on their own account, sever their con-nection with me, because God intends to make this Community a model for others, who strive to reach the highest wrung of the ladder of piety and purity and those who have truly given priority to faith over their worldly pursuits.’ (Tadhkiratush Shahadatein- English Edition, pp.73-74).

May Allah enable us to be amongst those who give priority to faith over worldly pursuits always.

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  • I can understand that cutting of hand is not allowed if some one steals food for himself or herself for sustenance. It there a financial limit for this punishment. To what extend the hand should be cut for stealing. The cutting of hand may prevent future stealing, but would also make it difficult for the person to earn living.

    Would be grateful if this point could be further explained.