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Islam the Misunderstood Religion Islam and the Concept of punishment

Jan 31, 2014, 10:13 AM

Islam precludes all possible motives for robbery yet it examines all circumstances of a crime to ascertain, before the infliction of the punishment, that the criminal was not impelled to commit crime.

Islam recognizes the strength and importunity of sex but it tries to satisfy the sexual instinct through legal means i.e. marriage. Therefore Islam advocates early marriage and provides aid from the Public Treasure for those who wish to get married yet cannot afford to do so. On the other hand, Islam purifies society from temptations which excite the passions. It also prescribes lofty and noble ideals which exhaust excessive vitality and direct it into the service of public. It prefers that leisure time should be spent in trying to become closer and closer to God. In this manner Islam eradicates all motives that may lead to crime. Nevertheless, Islam does not hasten to inflict punishment unless the criminal has disregarded traditions and degenerated to animality by committing adultery so openly that he could be seen by four eye-witnesses.

It may be said that the present economic, social and moral conditions make it difficult for young men to get married and consequently they are led to adultery. There is some truth in that. But when Islam is truly applied there will be on maddening crazy temptations which lead young men to corruption, and there will be no pornographic motion pictures, newspapers or song. No exciting temptation will be walking along the streets. There will be no poverty which prevents people from marriage. It is then and only then that people may be called on to be virtuous. In such a case punishment may be inflicted on offenders because they have no excuse or justification.

Before prescribing punishment, Islam tries in the first place to wipe out all circumstances and motives that may lead to crime. But even if after that a crime is committed Islam tries to waive the execution of punishment if there is any doubt it. Could any other system match the justice of Islam?

It is because some Europeans have not studied the reality of the Islamic concept of crime and punishment that they consider the punishments prescribed by Islam as barbarous and degrading to human dignity. They wrongly imagine that such punishments- like the European Civil punishments- will be inflicted every day. They also fancy that the Islamic society indulges in daily executions of flogging, hand-cutting and stoning. But the fact is that such deterrent punishment has been executed very rarely. The fact that the punishment for theft has been executed only six times throughout a period for four hundred years is clear evidence that such punishment was primarily meant to prevent crime.

It should be remembered that Islam, before prescribing punishment, aims at the prevention of crimes. Even in the very rare cases when such punishments were inflicted we may be sure that they were quite just.

There can be no reason why some Europeans are afraid of the application of the rules of Islam except that they are criminal by nature and persist in committing crimes which lack all justifications.

On the other hand, some persons imagine that such punishments have no practical significance. This is not true. These punishments were prescribed in order to frighten those individuals who have no reasonable motives for crime yet feel a strong desire for committing crimes. However strong their motives may be, the punishment will surely make them think twice before committing any crime. It is true that some young men may suffer from sexual repression. But so long as the community works for the public good and cares for all its members, the community is entitled to full security with respect to persons and property.

On the other hand, those people who tend to commit crimes for no clear reason are not left to their fate. Islam tries all possible means to treat and restore them to normality.

It is to be regretted that some cultured youths and modern jurisprudents attack the punishments prescribed by Islam simply because they are afraid of being accused of barbarism by Europeans. But I am sure that such people would benefit very much by studying the wisdom of the Islamic legislation.

Forms of Punishment in Islam

Islamic Law, in confronting the problems of life and setting down solutions for them, is established on two complimentary principles.These are: the stability and permanence of its basic tenets on the one hand and the dynamism of its subsidiary injunctions on the other.

For the unchanging aspects of life, Islamic Law brings fixed statutes.For the dynamic aspects of life that are affected by social development, broadening horizons, and advances in knowledge, Islamic Law comes with general principles and universal rules capable of being applied in a number of different ways and in a variety of circumstances.

When we apply these principles to the penal system, we find that Islamic Law has come with clear texts prescribing fixed punishments for those crimes that no society is free of, crimes that do not vary in their forms because they are connected with the constant and unchanging factors of human nature.

Islamic Law confronts other crimes by stating the general principle that decisively indicates their prohibition, leaving the punishment to be decided by the proper political authority in society.The political authority can then take the particular circumstances of the criminal into consideration and determine the most effective way to protect society from harm.In accordance with this principle, punishments in Islamic Law are of three types:

Prescribed punishments, Retribution and Discretionary punishments

The Quran often makes mention of repentance in association with the crimes that it deals with, making it clear that the door to repentance is open whenever the criminal abandons his crime and behaves properly.It has made repentance a means of waiving a fixed punishment in some instances, like the punishment for highway robbery.God says:

“…except for those who repent before you take hold of them.Then know that God is the Forgiving, the Merciful.” (Quran 5:34)

God says regarding the punishment for fornication:

“It they both repent and mend their ways, then leave them alone.Verily, God is the Accepter of repentance, the Merciful.” (Quran 4:16)

God says after mentioning the punishment for false accusation:

“… Except for those who repent afterwards and makes amends, then verily God is the Forgiving, the Merciful.”

God says after mentioning the prescribed punishment for theft:

“Whoever repents after his wrongdoing and makes amends, then verily God will accept his repentance and verily God is the Forgiving, the Merciful.” (Quran 5:39)

This is seen more frequently with regard to discretionary punishments, whereby it is incumbent upon the judge to take into consideration the circumstances of the criminal and what will insure his betterment. Let’s repent before it is too late.