Isn’t ‘Capital Punishment’ Against Human Rights?

Name of Questioner: Edgar

Date: 18-8-2019 03:58:01 PM

Consultant: Ask About Islam Editorial Team


God says in Quran "an eye for an eye". So if someone has killed a member of your family, can you kill them, or will you be committing a sin because God also says in Quran you should not take anothers life?

Dear Edgar,

Thank you for your question.

Answering your question, Dr. Jasser Auda, Professor and Al-Shatibi Chair of Maqasid Studies at the International Peace College South Africa, the Executive Director of the Maqasid Institute, states:

"An eye for an eye" is part of a Quranic verse that mentions the Law that God had revealed in the Torah:

And We ordained for them in that [Torah]: A life for a life, and an eye for an eye, and a nose for a nose, and an ear for an ear, and a tooth for a tooth, and a [similar] retribution for wounds… (Quran 5:46)

This is a verse. However, it is incorrect for an individual Muslim to take an action related to a legal matter only based on one evidence (such as a verse from the Quran or Hadith of the Prophet (peace be upon him). An action cannot be decided unless all verses and Hadiths related to the topic are put in one context.

Generally speaking, if we put all the scripts related to punishments for crimes, in other words, Islamic criminal law, we will learn the following guidelines:

- Criminal rulings are to be applied by a government and never by individuals upon individuals. If we leave it up to individuals to apply the Islamic law, the consequence is that the society will become chaotic. Thus, it is prohibited for an individual Muslim to apply such laws on his/her own, even if the government falls short in applying such laws, from that individual's point of view.

- The application of punishments in the Islamic law is always subject to a long list of conditions before this punishment (hadd) is applied. A judge cannot have a shadow of doubt as he/she sentences a suspect with a hadd. That is why circumstantial evidences are not enough in cases of murder and similar major offences that fall under hudud.

- The punishment that is prescribed in the Quran, which scholars call a hadd, is usually a maximum sentence that a judge could use if the circumstances of the crime dictate that. Lighter punishments could also apply depending on the several factors, such as the specific situation of the crime, a state of war that the whole community is going through, etc.

- In the specific case of murder, there is a room in the Islamic law for the relatives of the murdered to pardon the murderer and agree on some compensation. These provisions are subject to societies and traditions, but could also take the shape of written laws.

Therefore, the answer is yes: You will be committing a major sin if you take the 'eye for an eye' law in your own hand. Thus, if you accuse someone of murder of a relative of yours, follow all the possible legal means in order to get the murderer punished according to whatever punishment that the law of the land prescribes. It is prohibited to take such matters in your own hands.

We hope this answers your questions.

Keep in touch.