Active Pages >> Response to Criticism  >> Penal Laws In The Qur'an

Is it not baseless to claim that the penal laws of the Qur'an which were once effective in the societies of a tribal and racial character, are as effective in the modern democratic tradition as well?
Under which type do the penal laws of the Qur'an fall? Are they oriented towards the individual or towards the society ?
On which type of values is the penal laws of the Qur'an founded?
How can it be claimed that the penal laws of the Qur'an are practicable ?
Other religious texts, too, seek to give a prescription of penal laws. What is it that makes the penal laws in the Qur'an different from them ?
The goal of penal law is to ultimately eliminate crime itself. Is not the modern practice of incarcerating criminals under long terms in prison in order to effectively stop them from committing crimes again, more merciful than the cruel penal code of the Qur'an ?
Why does the Qur'an not agree with the stand of the modern science of criminology which holds that it is necessary to adopt a sympathetic approach towards criminals ?
Does not the Qur'an, by way of amputating the hand of the one who commits theft, leave aside the family, which depended on him for its living, to its fate ?
What is wrong if two individuals desire to get involved in a sexual relationship with each other ?
Will it be possible to eliminate extra-marital relationships through the punishments prescribed in the Qruan ?
Islam prescribes two types of punishments for adultery. Why is this so ?
Why is it that Islam prescribed two types of punishment for the same crime?
Will not the implementation of the penal laws of the Qur'an give rise to a situation whereby any person can be annihilated with the allegation of adultery ?
Is it not meaningless to justify a ruling like ‘murder for murder’, which modern-day criminologists have termed barbaric, merely because it is stated in the Qur'an ?
What will the family of the murdered person gain if the murderer is killed in retaliation ?
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"O mankind! There has come to you a good advice from your Lord (ie, the Qur’an), and a healing for that (disease of ignorance, doubt, hypocrisy and differences, etc) in your breasts,-a guidance and a mercy for the believers."

Holy Qur’an 3:83

Is it not baseless to claim that the penal laws of the Qur'an which were once effective in the societies of a tribal and racial character, are as effective in the modern democratic tradition as well?

No. If the objective of penal law is the elimination of crime, the laws prescribed by the Qur'an were, indeed, relevant in the middle ages even as they are today and even as they will find relevance for all time to come.

If by Democracy is meant the granting of complete freedom to the individual there can be no doubt concerning the fact that the Qur'anic laws will be impracticable in such societies. If, however, the objective of democratic societies is to provide citizens with all the freedom that is required for their creative pursuits on the path of progress while, at the same time, to prevent that very freedom from being so misused as to prove harmful to the society, there can be no other prescription that will, as a matter of fact, be as relevant and as practicable as the penal laws of the Qur'an.

It must be realized that despite whatever the structural changes to which the society may become subject, there will never occur any change, whatsoever, of a fundamental nature, in the desires and emotions of the individual. It is the same values which were once to be protected in the middle ages, in the interest of the existence and progress of society, that are to be preserved in modern society as well. With the individual departing from these values it can only lead to a state of anarchy and the eventual breaking apart of the social structure.

By crime is implied that action which is carried out by the individual against the society at large. It is only in the absence of crime that the progressive flow of a society becomes possible. Indeed, the ultimate goal of all penal laws is the making of social life as peaceful as possible by a constant striving, not so much, for merely punishing those guilty of crime as for the elimination of crime itself. The Qur'an’s speciality lie in its prescription of exactly such a set of penal laws which serves to attain to this objective. Here, too, it is the practicability of the Qur'an which accords this special status to its penal code.


Under which type do the penal laws of the Qur'an fall? Are they oriented towards the individual or towards the society?

The vision of the Qur'an as regards the concepts such as individual, society and the like is totally different from that of the materialistic ideologies. This is evident also in its penal laws. Islam is never in consonance with the Freudian school of thought which sees in man nothing but a mere puppet that could never break free of the strangulating influences of the circumstances of his birth and environment. The Marxian view that it is economic change alone which determines all feelings of self and values is also alien to Islam. The outlook of capitalism, too, which holds that the full light of personality can shine forth only if those born free are also allowed to live their lives in complete freedom is, also rejected by Islam. However, Islam recognizes the fact that wealth, circumstances and environment all have their effect on the personality of men. But the person, as such, is never created by them. The individual feeling of self and the capacity to decide his stand in differing circumstances both fall under the prerogatine of the soul. Indeed, this has been the divine grace endowed upon man, and man alone. For it is this very soul that enables him to distinguish between good and evil and to decide his own choice between the two.

It is the individuals who constitute a society. It is, moreover, the divine laws which seek to purify the individual. It is certain, then, that the society which is made up of individuals who imbibe, within themselves, the moral laws will be one in which peace and goodness reigns. The individual is obliged to obey these laws. For it is only through this that a self purification becomes possible. Even so, there will be, in every society, at least some who try to deviate from the moral code. If such people are not stopped, it will become the cause for evil becoming rampant in society leading, thereby, to a state of anarchy and chaos. The laws of the Shariah are meant to prevent just such a growth of evil.

The very objective of the penal laws in the Qur'an is to maintain the individual and society in a state of perpetual purity. Islam does not envisage a view whereby the individual may be sacrificed for the society or the society for the individual. Nevertheless, the capitalistic outlook which does not tolerate even the slightest encroachment of the individual and the communist one which holds that even the most basic urges of the individual ought to be sacrificed for the society are both alien to Islam. The vision of Islam, on the other hand, holds that it is never a mutually clashing relationship which must exist between the individual and society. It is values that necessarily binds them together harmoniously. The penal laws of the Qur'an serve to purify the individual and society by way of protecting these values. Thus, they are centered neither on the individual nor on the society.



On which type of values is the penal laws of the Qur'an founded?

The goal of the Qur'an is to herald the reign of peace with in both the individual and society. Individuals do have certain rights. It is through the mutual conceding of these rights that social cohesiveness becomes possible. None can be allowed to trespass upon the rights of another. Indeed, it is the duty of the state to see to it that the rights of none are violated and, in the possible event of such an occurrence, to restore it fully to the victim. It is for this purpose that penal laws are executed. The objective of the penal laws in the Qur'an has, therefore, remained the persuasion of the individual to tread upon the right path of conduct.

In the vision of Islam these are certain values of great importance, which are to be preserved at all cost. Faith, reason and intelligence, esteem, life, wealth, solidarity and bond of the family, manners, the strong fabric of the society all of these are to be protected. No body is to be allowed to demolish them. By ‘nobody’ is meant not just the other; it includes one’s own self as well. Thus it is that the one who attempts suicide with the intention of ending one’s own life, the one who indulges in adultery thereby destroying his own self respect and the one who consumes intoxicants thereby destroying his own intellect are all criminals in their own right.

The society envisioned by the penal laws of Islam is one wherein all can live free of the fear of any. It is only in such a society that peace and harmony can prevail. Indeed, the ultimate goal of the penal laws in the Qur'an is the creation of a society that is founded on humanism; a society wherein every member is enabled in growing and progressing along the path delineated by his or her own capacity



How can it be claimed that the penal laws of the Qur'an are practicable ?

Any penal law can be said to be practicable if it exhibits the following qualities:

1. It becomes a retribution for the crime committed.

2. It prevents crime.

3. It serves to create a sense of dread in criminals.

4. It serves to assuage the feelings of the victims of the crimes who have undergone great privations.

5. It seeks to civilize the criminal.

6. It provides for the compensation of those who suffered losses due to the crime.

7. It seeks to make the criminal repentant.

8. It protects society from crime and disorder.

All of these qualitative functions may be seen to be fulfilled by any of the penal laws in Islam. It can thus be said without the shadow of a doubt, that they are, indeed, practicable.



Other religious texts, too, seek to give a prescription of penal laws. What is it that makes the penal laws in the Qur'an different from them ?

Several religious texts do give an explanation of the punishment that is to be meted out for different crimes. However, as many of them have become subject to manipulation by the hands of man, much can be seen in them that is inhuman. The Qur'an, however, stands apart in this regard. For the reason that all laws within it are of a divine nature, it is out and out humane; is all encompassing and is relevant for all time.

Consider the punishment for adultery which has been prescribed by different religious texts :

"If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife - with the wife of his neighbour - both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death." (Leviticus 20:10)

"If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel." (Deuteronomy 22:22)

Here the Bible has accorded the punishment of death in the Old Testament only in the case of sexual relation with a married woman. As for sexual relations with a virgin, the Bible does not prescribe any punishment. The only ‘punishment’ as such which can be meted out if such an affair is discovered, is that she must be married off forthwith. "If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered he shall pay the girls father fifty shelves of lover He must marry the girl for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives." (Deuteronomy 22:28,29)

What is the reason for prescribing the death penalty for having sexual relation with a married women? (This is while the Bible does not even consider the issue of whether the man is married or not). The Bible teaches that the woman is the property of the father up til the time that she is married off and is the property of the husband following her marriage to him. It is for this reason that it allows for man to sell off women (See Exodus 21:7). The person who commits adultery with a man’s wife has only illegally used the woman which is his own property. The crime of such a person-whether he be married or not - is one and the same. As man is not seen as the property of woman, the Bible does not deem it a crime that he commits adultery. This fact is further corroborated by the Encyclopedia Judaeca itself. (Encyclopedia Judaeca, Vol. 2, Column 313).

In short, therefore, the Bible sees in the evil of adultery the violation of another’s property. It is true, however, that such violation is accorded the death penalty itself. The social problems, the break up of the family or the moral degeneration created by adultery : none of these come within the purview of the Bible.

Observe the punishment prescribed by the Apasthamba Dharmma Suthra : "The Sudra who kills a Brahman must be burnt to death slowly by immersing him thrice in fire. However, if a Sudra is killed by any, it would be sufficient to award one year imprisonment and a fine of twelve cows as penalty." (As quoted by Krishnananda Swamy in ‘The Caste-Wars in India’, P.94)

All the laws in the Hindu Smrithi are, in their formulation, based on the caste system. This deplorable tendency is evident throughout the laws which sanctify the position of the Brahman while, at the same time, debase that of the Sudra. There exists vast differences in the punishment meted out to a Brahman who commits a crime and the punishment for a Sudra who commits the same crime. Briefly then, these laws can never be for humanity; they are meant only for the castes.

No such problems can be seen in the penal laws of the Qur'an. There is nothing in it that is of a despicable nature. Indeed, the ruler and the ruled are both subject to the same punishment for the same crime: undoubtedly, a truly humane outlook.

In similar fashion, the Qur'an views the breaking of the proper norms of sexual behaviour as an affront to the solidarity of the family set up and of the society itself. Here, both the man and the woman stand on equal footing. The degree of punishment inflicted here depends on the question as to who had committed the crime and of the gravity of the problems that it can create in society. It can also be seen that as the problems arising from the adultery committed by married and unmarried people are different for each group, the punishment prescribed for them are also different. Here again, it is the humane aspect of the penal legislation in the Qur'an that becomes clearly evident.



The goal of penal law is to ultimately eliminate crime itself. Is not the modern practice of incarcerating criminals under long terms in prison in order to effectively stop them from committing crimes again, more merciful than the cruel penal code of the Qur'an ?

The increasing rate of crime in different countries today makes the truth of the matter very clear that imprisonment alone will not serve to make society crime-free as such. To a young generation that has been taught in the idea that the amassing of wealth and the enjoyment that may be derived of it constitutes the highest goal in life, crime is nothing but the easy way of making money. Statistics today reveal that crime is on the increase in all modern societies of the world.

Take, for instance, the situation in India itself: in the past one decade the rate of crime has gone up considerably. Look at a report by India Today which talks of an alarming rise in criminal tendency amongst the younger generation, involved as it is in the mad competition of enjoying life: "The indepth study being conducted by the criminology division of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences concerning the nature of crime committed over the past one decade is now nearing completion. The alarming result of that study is that there has been a 40 percent increase in the rate of crime amongst youth. Although crime is prevalent amongst all sections of the youth population, it is of particular relevance that such cruelty is on the rise within the youth of the middle-class as well as the upper-class families in society. The National Crime Bureau has disclosed in its recent report that 56 percent of the perpetrators of these crimes have been youngsters in the age group of 16 to 25. Out of the 551 cases of robbery-under-threat that took place in Mumbai over the past 11 months, 80 percent was committed by youth who included those venturing into such practices for the first time. 50 percent of these were below the age of 20. It is also reported that robbery and theft have risen in Bangalore and that 60 percent of the culprits included those who were youngsters. 93 percent of the most heinous crimes committed in Delhi during the last one year were also committed by youngsters." (India Today, 02.01.1999)

An eleventh standard student who kills a companion and his friend who used to go around with the girl he liked, Shyam and Ravi who, for the purpose of making money, killed at least 23 people by clubbing them to death (both were aged 24), an engineering student who murders the mother of a friend to loot her of her money, the 21 year old who kills the mother and sister of a friend to loot their house, the son of wealthy parents who carried away four girls rapes them and murders more than one person (aged 26), the 25 year old who is a suspect in 27 cases of murder. The list of such criminals is, indeed, a long one.

Why is it that such crimes keep occurring? Firstly, because of the loss of belief in the Lord of the worlds as well as in the life Hereafter. Secondly, because it has been taught that the ultimate goal of human life is to amass wealth and maximize enjoyment. Thirdly, because it is the feeling amongst criminals that they will never be caught and even if they are caught they can escape from punishment through various channels of influence and even if they are punished they can live their lives again in comfort after a few months in jail. The prevalence of this line of thinking in capitalist societies will, no doubt, prove consequential in the alarming growth of crime. In truth, this problem continues to haunt social scientists of all nations that claim for themselves the status of modernity.

What, then, is the solution? Issue harsh punishment for crimes. Execute such punishments in public. It is certain that if a situation wherein the amputation of hands for robbery manifests itself, the rate of crime will drop. The nations that have adopted the Islamic penal code are living examples of this assertion. During the reign of the late king Abdul Aziz, it was only a mere 16 amputations that were required during his long teure of 25 years. To put it differently, there were only 16 cases of robbery in 25 years. For a certainty, then, none will be inclined to attempt robbery in a society wherein the situation is such that the thief will have his hand amputated and wherein those who have actually lost their hands owing to their thievery lives amongst the people. No matter how pressing or provocative the impulse, the majority of the people will abstain from theft for fear of the harshest retribution. This fact is conceded even by the materialists. For E.S. Ganghadharan had written thus: "In strictly implementing the Islamic ruling on punishments for robbery, murder, lying, cheating, adultery, quarrelling and the like, there is no mercy shown while enforcing the harshest penalty. As a result, the occurrence of internal strife and criminal acts in the Arab countries is very few indeed." (Deshabimani Weekly, 11.03.1979)

What of imprisonment itself? It does not, of itself, make any effect on the other people. Does it, then, create any change in the criminal himself? Here again the answer is ‘No’. We see that those who come out of imprisonment after having served their sentence usually turn out to become professional criminals. What does it reflect when criminals, who come out of prison, carry on their sinful lives with greater vigour, vengeance and courage than ever before? It is simply that the purpose of penal law is hardly served out by mere sentences of imprisonment alone.



Why does the Qur'an not agree with the stand of the modern scienceof criminology which holds that it is necessary to adopt a sympathetic approach towards criminals ?

It has become routine now for those who speak of the necessity of a sympathetic approach towards criminals to admit defeat in presenting a practical plan of action for making a peaceful social life that is free of crime, possible. Those who demand sympathy for criminals never worry about the sorrowful plight of those forced to bear great losses due to these crimes.

The innocents who, for no reason or fault of theirs, suddenly lose their lives.

The people who are robbed of their earnings for which they had worked and toiled.

The bonds of the family that are wrecked by the wayward living of a mate.

The children of the street who, with no one to look after them, have taken to the streets a begging.

Families that break apart owing to the alcoholism of the head of the family.

Is it these grievances or is it the cruel, impudent and irresponsible perpetrators of these crimes who require a sympathetic treatment? For it is not possible to adopt such an attitude in both the cases simultaneously. The view of Islam is that it is the victim of these crimes, who suffers the accompanying privations, who is in need of a sympathetic approach. Indeed, Islam holds that it is only such an attitude which is humane and it is only the laws that are based on such a vision which can successfully free men from the stigma of crime. That that is, in fact, correct has, as of now, been made clear.



Does not the Qur'an, by way of amputating the hand of the one who commits theft, leave aside the family, which depended on him for its living, to its fate ?

The goal of the penal law of the Qur'an in the case of theft is never to create a multitude of the handicapped. On the contrary, it is to create and make possible a situation wherein nobody is robbed. Indeed, the Lord Creator, who knows that to eliminate robbery and theft the poverty and hunger of the destitute must first be addressed, had Himself revealed the Qur'an. It was for this same reason that the Qur'an had first provided for the instructions pertaining to the solution for poverty and hunger before it addressed the issue of penal law.

The Zakat system of Islam was instituted to resolve the problems of the poor and the needy. The Islamic directive, in this regard, has been to take from the wealthy and to give to its rightful owners. Zakaat is never a charity offering of the rich. On the contrary the prophet had taught it to be right of the poor. Undoubtedly, the basic requirements of the poor in society will have been accomplished if the Zakaat system of Islam is effectively implemented. Indeed, this has been the lesson of history. In fact, Islamic history does put forward numerous instances where circumstances prevailed in which there were to be found none to accept charity in the societies where the Zakaat system was implemented with rigour and efficiency. In the vision of Islam, if the hunger and poverty of the poor cannot be addressed fully even with the Zakaat system, the rulers are duty - bound to provide for them through other means.

It was thus that Islam alone, among the religions of the world, produced laws aimed at the elimination of poverty and became exemplary for all by way of going on to implement them as well. Islam, then, spoke of penal laws only after the removal of circumstances which actually made the resort to crime imperative. It is never in a society wherein unemployment and poverty go hand in hand that the Qur'an calls for the execution of penal laws. The injunction of Islam has only been the amputation of the hands of the thieves who disrupt the peace of society even after conditions have become so favourable that there need be no thefts or robbery to gain food or the other most basis of necessities.

Look at the robberies that are committed in India itself. Are they for the purpose of alleviating hunger? In fact, 99 percent of the robberies that do take place in India are nothing but the easy way of enjoying life for the younger generation. These are the people who loot and kill for the sake of obtaining new cars, stay in luxuary hotels and have the long list of female companions. It is certain that if at least some of these, against whom the crimes are proven, have their hands amputated, 90 percent of the crimes being committed will become non-existent. The question is whether we will be prepared for such an eventuality.

Even in Islamic countries famine and starvation is possible. In such an event Islam does not permit the amputation of hands if a man were to commit theft. It was in the time of Caliph Umar (r) that a thief, who was caught during a period of famine in the land, was let off on the premise that he had probably committed the theft under the pressing compulsion of hunger. Here we witness the humane face of Islam which pronounced punishments with the objective of making criminals non-existent and which had proved such a vision to be practicable as well.



What is wrong if two individuals desire to get involved in a sexual relationship with each other ?

Sexuality is a divine gift. Its foremost function amongst living creature is reproduction. It is also true that in the case of man, besides reproduction, his mental health, solidarity of the family, the peace of social life : all are linked to sexuality. In availing of a sexual behaviour that is not in keeping with the divine guidelines, the mental health of the individual, solidarity of the family and social structure will be adversely affected. Moreover, such extra-marital relations will lead to the affliction by sexually transmitted diseases which will eventually end in the destruction of society. Indeed, those who have learned of this through experience have been the very people who claim for themselves the status of being the spokesperson of modern culture.

Islam teaches that if two individuals are to have sexual relations with each other they are to do so only through the contract of marriage. Apart from that all other relations are bound to create disruption and chaos. It will also destroy the very fabric of all values in society. It will cast the seeds of suspicious within one’s marital life. Such suspicion will then create cracks within the rapport between hearts. It disrupts family relations - It will even gravely affect the mental health of future generations.

The statistics related to this subject in Kerala, which is currently moving ahead with the acceptance of western values, will frighten any with a sense of moral consciousness. For instance, at least three hundred people report to the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology in Trivandrum every month to verify through DNA and finger print tests that the child born to their wives are indeed their own! (Mathrubhumi Weekly, 31.01.99) What does this reveal? The number of spouses who destruct each other is on the increase. What is the reason for this? The answer is given by Mathrubhumi itself: "30 percent of the men and 18 percent of the women who participated in the survey were involved in extra-marital affairs."

This is the state of Keralite society which claims that it conforms strictly to a moral code of conduct. As for the state of western societies, it is even worse. The greatest social problem there continues to be the girls who are rendered pregnant at a very tender age. Another important issue with which the government continues to grapple is the problem of illegitimate children. However the situation there is such that these issues are not considered as problematic at all. Social scientists, however, warn that such violations of behavioural norm leads to the collapse of the institution of the family and consequently create social problems of a grave nature which will, in the long run, end in the total failure and destruction of the western world.

Islam has never envisioned such a society. Islam has striven for the creation of a society wherein a peaceful family environment and marital relationship prevails.

To that end, Islam considers that all sexual relations outside of the wedlock are to be prohibited. For that reason the Qur'an recommends such penal laws which serve to eliminate these sexual relations. Conceding the fact that the sexual impulse is, indeed, one of the most powerful of instincts, it is necessary, nevertheless, to check man, in the exercise of that impulse, with equally compelling measures. Indeed, herein lies the great relevance of the punishments in the Qur'an.



Will it be possible to eliminate extra-marital relationships through the punishments prescribed in the Qruan ?

It is not just penal laws that find mention in the Qur'an. In fact, Islam views the recourse to penal law only as a last resort. The Qur'an teaches that all circumstances which can lead to extra-marital sexual affairs must first be removed. All laws and regulations for that purpose are provided by the Qur'an. They can be summarized as follows:

One : Men and Women are to dress decently. As sight constitutes the prime motivation of the sexual impulse in man, women are not to dress in such a fashion as to display their beauty.

Two : There should be nothing in society which is of a sexually provocative nature. Indeed, in an Islamic society caberrets, dances, beauty contests, ballets and the like can never be possible.

Three : The unrestricted mingling of the sexes, which ultimately leads to adultery, must not be permitted.

Four : The use of sex as a profession must be completely banned. For in an Islamic society, prostitutes, call-girls, sex-bombs, nude models and their like are an impossibility.

Five : Men and women (excepting for the husband or any relative with whom marriage has been prohibited ) are not to travel together.

Six : Men and women are not to converse freely except in the presence of another person.

Seven : Unless they have become mates through the institution of marriage, men and women are not to gaze at each other with emotions of lust.

Eight : They are not to speak, or flirt, in a manner that evokes lust.

Nine : If a man comes with the offer of marriage, the guardians of the woman must come forward to offer her in marriage to him if he is seen to be of a well-behaved person.

Ten : In the case of the men who cannot find cantentment in a single woman, there is also the provisions - albeit, a conditional one - to marry more than one woman.

Firstly, the Qur'an seeks to remove all situations which serve to inflame sexual passions and to promote crime. Secondly, it provides for an open permission for the fulfillment of desires through recourse to a lawful procedure. Even after this, those who opt for the way of un-righteousness in the fulfillment of their desires actually destroy the moral fabric of society as well as the family. Islam’s prescription here is to punish severely such ones as these.

Circumstances play not an insignificant role in making man unrighteous. In actual fact, therefore, due to the transformation of the media and the market into the promoters of sexual provocation and the current stand of the society in seeing in extra-marital relationships nothing of a sinful nature, the attacks against women have only risen higher. Take the case of Kerala itself. If the number of reported cases of rape in Kerala in 1997 was 193, 266 in 1995 and 399 in 1996, it rose to 588 in 1997. A 121.05 percent increase in just two years! By the October month of ’98, 461 cases of rape were reported. (Courtesy: Mathrubhumi Weekly, 24.05.1999). What is the reason for this ? In this rise of crime, the shift in the position of the society as regards extra-marital affairs and the exploitation of feminine charms by the media and the market have played out not a small part of their own. If such a state of affairs is to continue, even women who desire to live decently will not be allowed to go about in peace in Kerala.

This situation cannot exist in an Islamic society. For there can be no instance wherein women cannot live free of the fear of losing their chastity. Indeed, in the time of the prophet very few people, whose number could be virtually counted on the fingers of one’s hands, were punished for adultery. So was it in the reign of the Caliphs. Although the encroachment of the media and the influence of western culture have all served to create much decadence, the low rate of crime in the countries where the Qur'anic penal law is implemented even today highlights its practicability for all time.


Islam prescribes two types of punishments for adultery. Why is this so ?

Like all the other laws in Islam, the penal laws, too, were revealed step by step. House arrest was prescribed as the punishment for adultery in the beginning. "If any of your women are guilty of lewdness, take the evidence of four (reliable) witnesses from amongst you against them; and if they testify, confine them to houses until death do claim them, or Allah ordain for them some (other) way." (Qur'an 4:15)

The reference here to the statement "....until Allah provides for them another way" was later on rendered irrelevant with the final prescription of the punishment for adultery. This went as follows : "The woman and the man guilty of fornication, flog each of them with a hundred stripes: let not compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day: and let a party of the believers witness their punishment." (Qur'an 24:2)

The one hundred lashes prescribed in this verse is meant for the unmarried adulterers. If they are married the Islamic law is to kill by stoning. It is evident that the prophet had, during his rule, prescribed stoning to death in four such cases. Out of these, the culprits in one case were Jewish. The other three cases involved Muslims alone. The command to kill adulterer by stoning is reported by almost all books of hadeeth (Muslim, Abu Davood, Ibn Majah, Baihaqi, Ahmad). Thus there is no difference of opinion amongst Muslim scholars over the issue that married adulterers must be stoned to death. This is so even without such a punishment being mentioned in the Qur'an because it has been confirmed by the ahaadeeth which are of a genuine, and accepted, nature.



Why is it that Islam prescribed two types of punishment for the same crime?

Even though the crime is the same, Islam has prescribed punishments depending upon the state of the perpetrator and the gravity of its effect upon the society. The adultery of the unmarried is a crime. But there was not, before them, any legal way of giving went to their sexual impulses. Besides, the bond of the family is not broken by their action. But what of the adultery of the married ? They have, before them, their lawful mates in whom they can find the satisfaction of their desires. And what of the ultimate consequences of their act? The break up of the family! Anarchy, thereby, everywhere in society !! Therefore, the punishments for these will necessarily be different. Indeed, when compared with the adultery of the married, that of the unmarried is a smaller crime. It is not right that those who, even when in possession of legal means, go out in search of illegal outlets, be entertained. In fact, they must be punished in exemplary fashion. That too, with a punishment seeing which any other should not contemplate perpetrating the same. Thus it is that Islam prescribed the stoning to death of such persons.

As for the unmarried, Islam commanded that they be given one hundred lashes of the whip in public which would be consummate with the gravity of their crime. For even though they do cause disruption in society, they nevertheless, do not become the cause of the breakup of the family and of the consequent and associated social problems.


Will not the implementation of the penal laws of the Qur'an give rise to a situation whereby any person can be annihilated with the allegation of adultery ?

One of the fundamental premise of the Islamic penal law is that nobody except the perpetrators of crime is to be punished. For that reason it is that Islam does not permit for humiliating those who lead lives of purity by casting allegations against their names. Indeed, those who do make such allegations are duty-bound to produce four witnesses to back their claim. In the event that they fail to do so, it will not be those against whom the allegation is made, but on the contrary, it will be those who allege who will be punished. The Qur'an makes clear the punishment for those who make the false allegation of adultery thus : "And those who launch a charge against chaste women, and produce not four witnesses (to support their allegations), - flog them with eighty stripes; and reject their evidence ever after : for such men are wicked transgressors." (Qur'an 24:4)

It is the hobby of some people to conjure up allegations against married couples. It is no small problem that such people create in society. If it is known that the punishment for such is an award of eighty lashes, none will go around with such false accusations. Nobody will then consider making an allegation without four witnesses to back them up. How many, indeed, are the people in our society who, for fear of the allegations against them, are unable to meet with others face to face. Our media, after all, do employ such gossip tales to increase their circulation. All such misconduct, however, will be alien to the Islamic society. The situation wherein decent people are, without proper reason, immersed, and done away with, in the quagmire of false allegations will not prevail in that society. Indeed, the Qur'anic injunction is to publicly award such as will venture forth for the purpose with eighty lashes.

The punishments fixed by Islam for adultery are harsh. If married, they are to be stoned to death! If unmarried, they are to be awarded a hundred lashes! Islam which determines such punishments, has also prescribed laws so that the innocents are not punished. It is only if one can produce four eye witnesses that he can raise the allegation of adultery against the name of another. If this was not done, the person who raised the allegation would then be in a fix. Such would then be awarded eighty lashes. The possibility of false testimony here is very faint indeed. Thus a person will venture to make such an allegation only if he is certain that many more people had witnessed the act being committed. It is for the same reason that the possibility of the innocent being punished is very remote.



Is it not meaningless to justify a ruling like ‘murder for murder’, which modern-day criminologists have termed barbaric, merely because it isstated in the Qur'an ?

It is only natural for those who device their theories on the foundations of the mythical idea that the murderer can be civilized by way of showering mercy upon him, without even considering the plight of the one killed without reason and of the problems of the family that becomes orphaned thereof and even the fissures that develop in society, to feel that the laws in the Qur'an are impractical and barbaric. However, we must realize that experience has shown the facts to lie contrary to the results of their investigations.

The maximum sentence that may be inflicted for homicide in a modern day court of law is life imprisonment. Moreover, terms of life imprisonment usually end up being a prison sentence of a few years. This again is applicable only for those who have actually been sentenced. As for those with wealth and influence, how many, indeed, are the cases which we hear of every day wherein such people are allowed to safely escape the law.

What is the end result of the situation wherein nothing would transpire even if anyone is murdered? The incredible rise in crimes of homicide! A situation in which the youth are prompted increasingly towards the commission of murder! Statistics reveal that in the past one year (1998) 93 percent of the most gruesome cases of murder were carried out by youngsters who were new in the field. (Courtesy : India Today, 20.01.1999) An entire generation that would unhesitatingly kill for money and comfort is continuing to emerge onto the scene. Look at the case of the twenty four years olds, Shyam and Ravi: Ravi and Sham, both aged 24, go around the city (Bangalore) on a motorbike. Their target is the women on two wheeler who have to go through the darkened streets alone. Some times it would be just 50 rupees which these two, who, in a period of just six months, killed 23 people, would obtain. (Ibid). Youngsters who would not feel the least regret in taking a life for a paltry sum of Fifty rupees!

The story of Sanjeev Nandi who bathed in money is, however, a different one: His parents had him educated in one of the best business schools in America. When he came home to India for his vacations, they presented him with a seventh generation B.M.W. car worth 69 lakhs of rupees. Then, in spite of all this wealth and luxuary, why did Sanjeev Nandi seek to destroy that life? Why, indeed, did he drive his B.M.W onto five people, thereby killing them, in a state of drunkenness and then made off with the car? He reached, with his car, a friends residence, not having stopped even to tend to the people who had been injured gravely. Why then did he wash off all the evidences from his car? (India Today, 27.01.1999). A generation that shows not the least hesitation in making off with the car after having had killed five innocent people!

Youngsters who would not even care to look with pity at those caught between the crushing impact of the car wheels even as they were driving towards the mad enjoyment of life!

These are the living proofs against the arguments of the criminologists that the criminals can be civilized by putting them in prison! An altitude of sympathy towards the criminals can serve only to make criminals out of more people. Indeed, the Qur'an has prescribed murder in retaliation for murder on the realization that a peaceful social life can become possible only if the circumstances that may lead to crime are first removed and then by punishing severely those that still harbour within themselves the perverted tendency for crime.

"O ye who believe! The law of equality is prescribed to your in cases of murder: The free for the free, the slave for the slave, the woman for the woman ..." (Qur'an 2:178)

This verse was revealed in such fashion that it struck at the very heart of the most cruel norms of retributory justice which prevailed in Arabian society wherein blood was constantly spilt over petty inter-tribal conflicts. The tradition that prevailed there was not one in which the murderer was killed. Rather, it was their tradition to kill, in retaliation, as many people from the tribe of the murderer as would be the equivalent of the price of the murdered individual. They had the least hesitation in killing ten or even a hundred people in retaliation for the loss of one person. The reverse of the situation could also be the same. If a person of high rank in a tribe were to kill a lowly placed individual from another tribe they had great misgivings about killing the murderer in retaliation. The question on their lips would then be : ‘A wealthy one for a lowly?’ The Qur'an which put these customs to an end, had clearly indicated in the above verse that retaliation was to be carried out on the person of the murderer alone.

Islam places a high price for human life. Indeed, one’s life was not meant to be destroyed in the name of tribal conflicts, anger or revenge. The Qur'an makes it very clear that: " .... if any slew a person - unless if be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people." (Qur'an 5:35)

The statement that the death penalty is not right is, indeed, baseless. In a society which restrains from retaliations, there will occur a series of murders. A state of affairs wherein none will be enabled in living a life free of fear will then manifest itself. Thus it was that the Qur'an said: "In the Law of Equality there is (saving of) life to you, O ye men of understanding." (Qur'an 2:179)

The incidents that were related earlier have only attested to the truth of this Qur'anic proclamation.


What will the family of the murdered person gain if the murderer is killed in retaliation ? What recommendations does the Qur'an make in order to protect the family of the murdered person ?

The Qur'an does not recommend the death penalty in all cases of murder. Look at the Qur'anic verse which deals with the death penalty, "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, and compensate him with handsome gratitude. This is a concession and a mercy from your Lord." (Qur'an 2:178)

It is the close relatives of the murdered person who are to decide whether the murderer is to be saved from death or not. If it is agreeable for them, they can allow him to go free after taking the required blood-money (Diya). The court has no right whatsoever to oppose them if the relatives decide to let him go free. The blood-money for murder is a hundred camels. If this has been taken and the murderer is let off then from that moment on there can be no retaliatory action against him.

In short, therefore, if the relatives of the murdered person are so willing, they can accept the blood-money and let the muderer go free. They can then use the blood-money to rehabilitate the family which has now been orphaned and to make a means of livelihood for them as well. The Qur'an, which gave the final authority to decide the fate of the murderer to the relatives of the murdered person, here shows its brightest and most humane face of all.